Sony decision not to release ‘The Interview’ draws backlash

Critics say the company is caving to pressure from terrorists; others say it’s the right decision.

Sony Pictures has pulled “The Interview” from release in the wake of one of the largest corporate data hacks in history.

As of Thursday morning, Sony says it doesn’t have any plans to release the film on any platform. Some prominent filmmakers and other critics aren’t happy with the decision.

The controversial flick starring James Franco as a bumbling journalist sent to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Seth Rogen as his goofball producer is thought to have inspired the hack. The group calling itself Guardians of Peace invoked Sept. 11 and threatened violence against moviegoers on Christmas. U.S. intelligence officials announced Wednesday that North Korea was involved in the cyber attack.

The attack, which included threats of 9/11-style attacks on movie theaters, prompted major cinema chains including Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment to pull the movie.

Sony followed suit and released the following statement to explain its decision:

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.

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 – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.

The National Association of Theater Owners released this following statement:

The ability of our guests to enjoy the entertainment they choose in safety and comfort is and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. While we do not discuss security procedures or policies, NATO members are working closely with the appropriate security and law enforcement agencies. We are encouraged that the authorities have made progress in their investigation and we look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended. Until that happens, individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season experiencing the many other exciting films we have to offer.

In response to Sony’s troubles, Fox has ceased plans to produce a movie tentatively named after North Korea’s capital, “Pyongyang,” which was set to star Steve Carell. Gore Verbinski, who was scheduled to direct the movie, told “I find it ironic that fear is eliminating the possibility to tell stories that depict our ability to overcome fear.”

Filmmaker Judd Apatow, speaking about “The Interview,” may have captured the true upshot in a tweet sent Wednesday:

Apatow and Verbinski were part of a contingent of critics who framed Sony’s decision not to release the movie as an affront to freedom of expression. Among their numbers was former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

Sony and the theaters that pulled the movie painted their decision as a customer safety issue. Investors seemed to agree it was a good movie; Sony’s stock went up on the news.

Critics are fighting back with arguments saying that Sony essentially let North Korea censor its movie. Which argument do you think will prevail, Ragan readers?

Topics: PR

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