“The Interview” is a comedy movie about an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. This by itself is enough to encourage me to go and see it, because I like to go to the cinema to forget reality for a little bit. However, the movie appears to have poked a stick into a hornets’ nest because it’s kick started a lot of activity around both North Korea and Sony. Sony was hacked and cinema goers were threatened if they went to see the film, which ultimately caused Sony to cancel the planned Christmas Day showing on 17 December. On the matter, the film studio had this to say after cancelling screenings: “Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale â€” all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like.”
There’s been much finger pointing taking place as to who is responsible for the Sony data hack and of course, North Korea are the likely suspects even though they deny involvement. Mysteriously, North Korea has suffered from a couple of days of poor, unreliable Internet connectivity: it seems that the world at large is blaming North Korea for the attack on Sony all because of a movie. Okay the situation is a little deeper than this, but does anybody remember “Team America: World Police?”
We’re today seeing reports that Sony has hammered out a series of deals for the online distribution of “The Interview” as well as getting it shown on Christmas Day, too, but not in the major cinemas. It also looks like it will be streamed from the Google Play Store, YouTube and Sony’s website(seetheinterview.com)from today at 1 p.m. EST, with rentals costing $6 and a full purchase of the film in HD reportedly for $15. Sony has already confirmed that The Interview will be available from 10 a.m. PST(1 p.m. EST), and according to research company Rentrak, the publicity surrounding “The Interview” may well help Sony in the short term. For me, I was mildly interested in the movie but now I definitely want to go and see it. I’m especially encouraged that the U.S. Department of Homeland security said there is no “credible intelligence” (presumably they’re writing about North Korea here?!) regarding a terrorist threat within the United States, even though I’m in the United Kingdom. On a more serious note, I am mindful of the 2012 cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at a late night screening of Batman “The Dark Knight Rises” and so I understand and appreciate the caution involved.
So what made Sony change their mind? Perhaps it was President Obama’s comments during the end of year news conference. He said, “Sony’s a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against some of its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.” He also stated that he wished Sony had spoken to him before deciding to back down on the film as he would have advised them, “do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America’s about.”
At the back of my mind I’m also remembering that the simultaneous release of the movie online and at cinemas highlights a “day and date” release, which many cinema owners are against. A “day and date” release is when the film is available to watch at the theater as well as online; traditionally, cinema owners do not like this distribution method and argue that a simultaneous online release harms their box office sales. However, with the major cinema chains abandoning Sony’s “The Interview ” they don’t have so much of a say on the matter. Perhaps we’ll look back on these events as a time when how movies are released changed for the better?