On December 17th, Sony Pictures decided to cancel all showings of the upcoming movie The Interview, due to violent threats from hackers. The film takes a satirical perspective of two celebrities, who are convinced to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, after securing an interview with him.
Sony originally planned to let select theater chains release the movie, but too many chains opted not to screen it. After several chains including AMC, Regal Entertainment, Carmike, and Bow Tie Cinemas pulled the film from their theaters,Sony cancelled the film’s screening altogether and released the following statement: “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”
Although Sony Pictures and the various theater chains had the safety of the public in mind, many celebrities disagreedwith Sony’s move. “I thinks it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview. Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” tweeted Judd Apatow, an accomplished comedy film director. “Really hard to believe this is the response to a threat to freedom of expression here in America,” tweeted actor Ben Stiller.
Celebrities aren’t the only ones condemning the actions of Sony. President Obama expressed his distaste for the cancellation, claiming the companies should have consulted with him first. “I wish they had spoken to me first,” said the president. “We cannot have some dictatorship someplace imposing censorship in the United States.”
President Obama also suggested this move will negatively impact not only show business, but other fields of media as well. “Imagine what they will start doing when they see a documentary they don’t like or news reports they don’t like,” said the president, about the hackers. “Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended. That’s not who we are.”
Co-director and star of the film Seth Rogen disclosed his opinion on the controversy, supporting the movie completely. “Ultimately, I’m one hundred percent behind the finished product of the movie,” said Rogen. “We just wanted to create a really funny, entertaining movie. It wasn’t meant to be controversial.”
The hackers leaked embarrassing e-mails among Sony executives, employee records, and future Sony films, threatening to release more unless their demands are met. They demanded Sony erase all evidence of the film’s existence, and the statement also presaged violence on any moviegoers who went to see it, should the movie play anywhere.
A few days after the cyber-attack, the FBI has deduced the hackers are North Korean, based on several pieces of evidence the bureau disclosed on its web page. “For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks, between the hack and other malware the FBI knows Noth Korean actors previously developed,” reads one section on the page. Given this information, the president resolved to act when he has a plan of action. “We will respond in a place and time and manner we choose,” said Obama.
Although Sony had no future release plans a few days ago, they revealed to be “surveying alternatives” on December 20th. In the last couple of weeks, Sony has found alternatives, to slowly ease into the film’s revised release, given the amount of pressure the film industry has given the company. On December 23rd, Sony announced the movie’s limited release for Christmas day, in roughly 300 independent movie theaters. On December 24th, Sony made the film available for purchase on Google Play, Xbox Video, Youtube, and SeeTheInterview.com; 3 days later, Sony also released it on iTunes.
After Sony released the film, many appreciated the decision, in order to support the first amendment, even here in Wellesley. “I was happy to hear of Sony releasing the film,” said Max Pavlov ’16. “because no matter what the attackers nor what North Korea would do to the nation, Sony was able to stand strong by giving its freedom of speech.” The film remains in theaters to this date, and Sony has not shown any signs of pulling the movie out of independent theaters early.
(Colin Emerson ’16, Staff Writer)