Deadline‘s Jen Yamato is reporting that Sony has more or less folded in the face of a blustery, probably full-of-shit threat from the Sony hackers who have warned of 9/11-style attacks upon theatres that play Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg‘s The Interview. “Sony isn’t yet cancelling the Christmas release of The Interview,” Yamato wrote, “but the embattled studio has given its blessing to concerned theater owners who choose to drop the controversial comedy.”

A Sony source has told Yamato that “we’re leaving it up to the discretion of the theater owners and chains, and we will support their decision.” Variety‘s Dave McNary is reporting that Carmike Cinemas had decided not to show The Interview in their theaters. 8:55 pm update: The Arclight Cinema chain has also bailed.

Some chains or theatres may choose to play The Interview all the same but others, I suspect, may follow Carmike’s lead.

I realized earlier this afternoon after speaking to a couple of publicists about the threat that fear had quickly taken hold. Would that Americans are made of sterner stuff. But even if only a fraction of U.S. theaters decide not to show The Interview, the bottom line is that a major corporation has blinked and basically surrendered by saying, in effect, “Okay, maybe we shouldn’t do this but we don’t feel tough enough…maybe the bad guys are tougher than we figured…so they win.”

This decision will make a big impression, trust me, on hackers the world over. A light bulb is turning on in thousands of hacker brains right now. Is there anyone who doubts that Sony’s surrender has established a precedent that will encourage other bad guys to go to town?

Sony is more or less saying to the hackers, “You might be bullshitting about hitting theatres playing our film…the Department of Homeland Security said earlier today, in fact, that ‘there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.’ But it feels somehow safer to fold our tent in a limited way. People are scared, theatre-owners are scared and so are we, to be honest. So yes, you hackers might be blowhards with no abilities or intentions, even, to actually harm theatres or theatregoers, but congratulations…you’ve weakened the resolve of a major U.S. corporation. You are the men in this equation, and we are the candy-asses.

“But if some of you theatre owners want to play The Interview…great! We’re delighted!”

It’s too bad that a corporation has caved on a freedom-of-speech issue, but it’s also lamentable that the jeopardized speech is contained in a silly, low-rent movie.