We’re often fond of referring to rookie politicians as being tone deaf when it comes to how they present themselves in the media. It’s understandable that a little faux pas will pop up once in a while if you haven’t spent your life under the glare of the camera. But not so an operation such as Sony Pictures, which essentially lives and dies on the image they maintain with the public.
Allahpundit covered the beginning of the Sony push back yesterday but there was more goodness to come. Sony’s CEO, Michael Lynton, seems to have noticed the national, bipartisan backlash against their decision to not release The Interview while under digital threats from North Korea. Clearly unhappy with the the blow to their reputation for caving to the Supreme Leader, Lynton responded in a surprising way.
Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Sony did not cave to the hacker group Guardians of Peace by pulling the movie…
He said the decision to pull “The Interview” came only after the major theater chains decided not to show the film. It wasn’t because Sony didn’t want to distribute the movie.
“Movie theaters came to us … one by one and announced they would not carry the movie,” Lynton said.
“We have not caved,” he said.
That’s rather difficult to square with reality, Michael. As Noah noted the other day, the hackers were busy congratulating Sony in a very public way for complying with all of their requests and making it clear what they expected.
The hacker message is effectively a victory lap, telling the studio, “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
The message also says, “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”
So Lynton is saying that various large chains of theaters, which we fully acknowledge Sony does not own or control, refused to show the film. Fair enough. He can’t force them to show anything they don’t wish to. But only two days ago a brand new trailer for the film was pulled immediately after it “accidentally” was released on the original schedule. They also disappeared references to the film from their web site. Granted, the movie wouldn’t be showing up in the theaters that chose not to show it, but if you were actually still looking to have people see it, either on the big screen or online, wouldn’t you still want to promote a product that you had sunk so much money into? It sure sounds to me like they were complying with each and every demand of the hackers.
But clearly the disapproval of the public seems to have Sony changing course. They’ve released yet another statement claiming that they are “surveying alternatives to enable [them] to release the movie on a different platform.” But this seems to leave Lynton between a rock and a hard place. If Sony moves forward with a plan to release the film on Netflix, for example, then they will clearly have violated the above noted demands of the hackers and their sensitive internal documents are back in play. The media will once again have a field day with whatever goodies turn up, but this time the public will likely have even less sympathy for them because they caved in the first place.
If Sony had stood tough in the face of the attacks and just pushed the film out wherever and however it could be distributed, they would have had to deal with the blowback over their emails and such, but the public would have been on their side. (And a lot more people would likely have flocked to it.) But now, if and when it comes out, the hackers will punish them and they will have lost the good will of those potential viewers who are angry with North Korea. It’s bad medicine all the way around.