Sony Pictures: ‘We Had No Choice,’ But Still Considering Digital Release

The Interview Seth Rogen James Franco

Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton hit back after President Obama faulted the Hollywood studio for canceling the Christmas release of “The Interview,” as the studio indicated that it is still looking for alternative ways to release the movie.

“We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered,” Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that will air on “AC360” on Sunday, according to a producer at the network. The segment taped Friday.

“We would still like the public to see this movie,” he added. “Absolutely.”

The studio released an official statement on Obama’s remarks shortly after Lynton spoke to CNN, leaving the door open for some kind of way to release the picture.

“Let us be clear – the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it,” the studio chief said. “Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

“After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform.  It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.”

The studio was responding to the president’s remarks on its decision to pull the movie amid threats of violence from hackers who were linked to North Korea.

“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” Obama said at a press conference, in response to a question about whether he agreed with Sony’s decision. “We can not have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship in the United States,” he said.

Sony cancelled the film’s Christmas debut on Wednesday after a majority of theater owners declined to exhibit the picture. The hackers who hit Sony evoked the memory of 9/11 while threatening to strike movie theaters that showed the film.

“The president, the press, and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton said on CNN. “We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.”

Lynton also addressed suggestions that Sony distribute the movie on either digital or multichannel VOD platforms, but indicated that no partner has stepped up. “There has not been one major VOD distributor or e-commerce site and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us,” he said.

In a separate interview with NPR, Lynton made a stronger indication that Sony was working to find a digital home for “The Interview.”

“I shouldn’t say if — when. We would very much like that to happen,” he said.

Lynton also told NPR, “Yes, those are other avenues and we are actively exploring them …. to date, we don’t have any takers — neither on the video demand side nor on the e-commerce side. People have been generally fearful about the possibility of their systems being corrupted, and so there have been a lot of conversations about the robustness of various systems to be able to make sure they’re not hacked, if and when we put the movie out digitally.”

Sony owns the online streaming service Crackle, and its unclear whether that is an option that has been considered for releasing the movie. The service is advertising supported, as opposed to subscription services like Netflix.

“The Interview” centers on a hapless talk show host (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen) as they attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. As Variety reported exclusively, the film’s cancellation could end up costing Sony $75 million, only part of which will be covered by insurance.

Despite the financial hit, Lynton refused to second-guess the decision to greenlight the film.

“Yeah, I would make the movie again,” he said.

Lynton has long ties to Obama, having supported him in his Senate and presidential campaigns. Obama even appeared at Sony in 2011 for a reelection campaign fundraiser on a studio soundstage.

“I would be fibbing to say I wasn’t disappointed,” Lynton said. “You know, the president and I haven’t spoken. I don’t know exactly whether he understands the sequence of events that led up to the movies not being shown in movie theaters…Therefore I would disagree with the notion that it was a mistake.” In the interview, he said that they reached out to the White House and spoke to an unnamed senior adviser about the situation.

Lynton said he also was “surprised, frankly” that other studio CEOs did not rally around SPE. He attributed it to “their own commercial concerns” and worries that they would become a target. He said that it made the “entire enterprise to be a very, very lonely affair.”

The studio’s statement also tried to counter notions that it caved in to threats.

“Sony Pictures Entertainment is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment.  For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees’ personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal:  getting the film The Interview released. Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.

“The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision.”

Here is Michael Lynton’s interview with CNN:

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  1. cardmarc58 says:

    When you said it made the “entire enterprise to be a very, very lonely affair.” you should have realized that you probably made the wrong decision.

    Quit tap dancing around who’s to blame and pointing fingers at everyone else when you are responsible for not securing your own private emails & personal information.

  2. How is it the CEO of a major studio can appear on CNN and not even bother to comb his hair? Or why didn’t the makeup people at CNN touch him up? Sony should be boycotted until the film is released. I hate to say it, but maybe the whole movie theatre business needs to be boycotted to make the point. Alamo Drafthouse is the only exception to the boycott. Support that place. Not only is it a great theatre, but you get full restaurant service at your seat including beer, wine, cocktails. The way to increase audience is to run your theatre like Alamo Drafthouse.

  3. J says:

    my wanting for Sony to never release the movie has less to do with the company giving in to threats and more to do with pissing off americans who are villifying Sony to release it. i hope Sony never gives in to these crybabies

    • cardmarc58 says:

      It’s cute how you are stomping around calling people crybabies, child and kids when you are far more childish with your words and your championing and desire for Sony to piss off people.

      Do you want some cheese with that whine there J?

      • J says:

        So you’re whining that I’m whining about whiners?

        Love how you dramatically added that last sentence to footnote your witty anecdotes at me. Do please continue

    • nerdrage says:

      So being concerned with free speech means being a crybaby now? I’m glad my ancestors were “crybabies” about their inalienable rights so that I would have some right now. As for you, go live in North Korea with the other non-crybabies who will allow their rights to be trampled upon.

      Sony deserves to be vilified for being a pack of total wusses. And this story will not go away until Sony releases the damn movie. That much should be clear to everyone by now.

      • J says:

        listen here, child, im sure you’re more than willing to hold yourself into account for things your ancestors did, but this isnt a human rights issue. yes N Korea is in violation of many of them, but its not Sony’s responsibility to instigate a fight nor be in the political forefront of international relations. Im sure Sony thought they were funny in making this film and begged for some kind of response and they got exactly that. Nobody cared about the movie until Sony caved but the government should have stepped up at some point instead of waiting for bloggers and keyboard warriors with not enough problems of their own to put pressure Sony in the boxing corner like we’re in some kind of after school playground. These arent matters for you to tangle with, kid. Sony did what they had to do cuz they dont need to challenge anyone’s threat who very obviously can expose vital information and bring them down otherwise. And no one cared when they were leaking all the info, we were all just watching and laughing. Now that your DUDE WEED LMAO movie is getting shelved you feel the need to bring your parent’s parent into this. Im sure you were hoping they would go thru with their threat and bomb theaters and kill people so we can go to war and you can have more to complain about to get followers online. Personally I think it was a bluff but who is Sony to just ignore that?

  4. CharlesAz says:

    So based upon whose sensibilities are offended, our President chooses sides:

    Exhibit A: Video on YouTube: INNOCENSE OF MUSLIMS” – The President bashed it because Muslims were offended by casting the Prophet Muhammed in a negative light. Our President stated that the film never should have been made or released “BECAUSE IT DEEPLY OFFENDED MUSLIMS”

    Exhibit B: SONY PICTURES: THE INTERVIEW – Kim Jung Un and his posse all offended to the max. Yesterday our President stated The Interview it shouldve been released because “SOME PEOPLE NEED TO GET THEIR SENSIBILITIES OFFENDED.

    I do not want my President making statements about whose sensibilities should be offended and whose should be protected. Crazy stuff for him to get involved in.

    • Samuel says:

      Here’s the difference though. The Interview is a movie about killing a dictator, poking fun at him, etc. With The Innocence Of Muslims, I’m not sure how familiar you are with Islam, but even showing a picture of Muhammed is a big no, so having someone play him is hugely offensive in the first place. Secondly, he was shown as a rapist and child molester. So imagine someone made a video where Jesus is a rapist and molesting children, just generally being misrepresented. It is in NO WAY NEAR the content of The Interview, and thus can’t be compared.

      • nerdrage says:

        Well it is all in the eye of the beholder. If you believe in free speech, then a silly stoner movie about an insane tinpot dictator must be defended, but so must a crappy YouTube video that is deliberately trying to offend a religion. I’m sure there are people who find The Interview much more offensive than The Innocence of Muslims.

  5. ““The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision.””

    And who gave them that option and a little persuaidng? Sony. Who thinks everybody is stupid. Theaters were already contractually obligated to screen the film and it was Sony and only Sony who gave them an out clause….and now you know why. To point the cowardice finger at the theater owners. Be honest, Sony. You weren’t going to let them have the film regardless.

    • nerdrage says:

      Yes, Sony is spinning so fast, they’re going to dig their way all the way to China soon. They also said they wouldn’t be releasing the movie to VOD but they had to walk that one back because it was such stunningly obvious cowardice. At this point, I wouldn’t believe them if they said water is wet.

  6. cardmarc58 says:

    I saw a story on 2 different networks that say there is a Human Rights group that has 1000 copies on hand in South Korea and that Sony agreed to them delivering them via low level balloon drops all over NK and I did see a pic of the cover. 1 report has changed and said that Sony now does not want them to drop them, but the Human Rights group said it still plans on the drop.

    I know they have used the balloon drops to North Korea for many years so this may a true, and I hope that it is, because you know it’s gonna be all over the net if their are 1000 dvd’s/tapes sitting in South Korea.

    Has anyone else heard that report?

  7. D says:

    Whens the sequel coming?

  8. harry georgatos says:

    As a sign of disgust with the cowardly executives of Sony Americans should stay away from Sony pictures and product. Sony are hypocritical traitors to God and Country!

  9. Gump Chun says:

    It is not often that we on the home front are called on to show the kind of courage and fortitude in our daily lives that our troops do when fighting for us overseas. This was one of those times.

    We could either face down a monstrous dictator and his threats by allowing freedom and no interference with our artists’ rights to express themselves, or we could cower in the face of a criminal hacking, extortion, and crude terroristic warnings and censor, hide and shut down the ability of moviegoers to see a work that North Korea does not like.

    I for one would go see The Interview, and I would take my kids. I don’t want to teach them to be afraid, or to cower to dictators. I would teach them that Freedom isn’t free, and that we all need to stand tall and courageous in the face of rotten dictators’ threats.

    Sony chose to cower and betray the freedoms our founding father’s fought to protect and win for us. What a sad and egregious betrayal of our troops fighting for those freedoms overseas.

    • Shy says:

      Very good point, and so true. Not many have considered this perspective.

      • nerdrage says:

        On other sites, lots of people were stating just that – that they hadn’t planned to see the movie (it’s not to the tastes of many people) but would buy a ticket just to stand up for free speech. I would have been one of them and I’m incensed that Sony is too cowardly to allow me that option. I’m not afraid of those North Korean fuckers. If they try anything, it’s an act of war and then we nuke them into oblivion. I just hope Sony isn’t so cowardly that they won’t release it on streaming or VOD (cmon they own crackle, and there’s no proof they’ve even talked with any other outlet, otherwise they’d be naming names of who’s turned them down, I’ll bet their lying and haven’t even asked.)

        PS, probably don’t want to take the kids, though, far too raunchy for that.

  10. nerdrage says:

    Who did Sony approach? Netflix? Amazon? iTunes? YouTube? Who turned them down? Name names or shut the fuck up. Saying “nobody approached us boo hoo hoo” is some WEAK SHIT! You don’t wait to be approached, pick up the fucking phone and call! Netflix has The Interview listed in their DVD section. It’s in my queue right now! Release it on DVD and see if Netflix distributes it. Looks to me like they’re waiting to. If they refuse, THEN you can blame them, but don’t blame them without even TRYING!

  11. IT 2 IT says:

    STEP AROUND this latest TAVISTOCK mind control PSY op.

    START ASKING and wondering—-WHY?—– franchise slum Hollywood
    has ‘mysteriously overlooked’ some 5 decades of milestone anniversaries
    for the now 21st century DEFINING ——-KOREAN WAR????

  12. K-SQUARE says:

    Seems like Sony is shifting the moral blame on to the cinemas. Wasn’t there a story earlier this week that said the Sony told the theatres that they didn’t have to honour their distribution contracts with regards to this movie. Now it seems like they are saying that the cinema’s were the ones that pulled the plug. Doesn’t add up. The President is 100% right. Sony made a mistake and set a bad precedent. What makes this even more fishy is that Sony is dodging the question as to why they haven’t released it online. They have their own VOD distribution system. Yet again Lynton was saying that Sony is dependant on the online distributors. He’s simply not being straight forward.

    • harry georgatos says:

      It comes down to damaging and embarrassing emails so they can save their necks. If some type of incident happened in cinemas Sony would be liable. Sony should have released this online immediately but feel pressured by information the hackers have in their possession.

      • Gump Chun says:

        The line about liability is a complete smokescreen. North Korea knows any attack by them inside the USA would end their regime. They haven’t done any at all in 60 years. And Sony could easily purchase liability insurance to cover the theaters.

        This is about the additional info from the hack. They are terrified of further embarrassing leaks. So the cowards are selling the country out to cover their rear ends.

  13. clueless leader says:

    Obama is a dolt

  14. Michael says:

    Want to make a statement? Release this film to any broadcast or cable outlet for free, with the sole stipulation that the film must be shown in its entirety, uncut. Ask the channels which air it to please donate to help cover the production costs.

    • nerdrage says:

      Bittorrent and Alamo Drafthouse have already indicated they’re willing to take a stand for free speech. Start with them. Fox has been making noises. Challenge them on it – are you really willing to show this on TV, if so, here it is. Any blog or news site that published the embarrassing emails should also get a challenge. If you were willing to publish those emails, do you have the cojones to publish this movie? If they refuse, WOE to them, the wrath of teh internets will turn from Sony onto their own hypocritical selves.

      If Sony has any sense, they can turn this around and at the very least, put the onus on others. But I bet some will take up the challenge and then the cowards will start jumping on the bandwagon so as not to advertise their cowardice.

  15. Bill says:

    As alluded to below, Sony should leak a copy of the movie to Torrent sites; let the hackers try and take THOSE down.

  16. Bill says:

    We didn’t cave, we capitulated.

  17. cardmarc58 says:

    You should have hit back at the theater chains and tell them they won’t get the next Sony release until 1 week after the chains that were not chickens**ts had already shown it.

  18. 1favored says:

    I bet a dollar it was the release of emails that prompted their decision, nothing more and nothing less. Sony and other studio execs are afraid to ride that train.

  19. Mark C says:

    The Sony execs put their own egos ahead of what was best for the film. The threat of more info on their own email and personal info was where they put their egos first. I’m sure they were so embarassed by their own words. Their emails being released were just the beginning of what these faceless, nameless assholes in North Korea were ready to put out. Lynton and Pascal were are are just trying to save face and themselves by pulling the plug on the release.

    I can’t wait to watch SNL and see what they say. It’ll be a big f*%$ you to that pathetic little Southeast Asian country

  20. RJR says:

    If no VOD steps up, just put it out on Blu-Ray (could have one hell of a commentary track) and DVD. It would probably out-sell FROZEN at this point.

    • nerdrage says:

      Netflix has it listed in their DVD section right now, it’s sitting in my queue. I’m waiting, Netflix is waiting, what’s the hold-up Sony? You can’t blame Obama and theater owners for this.

  21. Michele says:

    Of course you had a choice. You could choose to release the film. Even if every chain refused to show it YOU would have come out ahead. A fucking hero who refused to be bullied. But instead, you CHOSE to pull the film off it’s release. That was your choice. Don’t blame the hackers. They’re actually not to blame. Anyone can make a threat. It’s terrible that your personal info was hacked and released. That’s totally separate from pulling the film from it’s release. Their empty threat to theaters that show the film was bogus. Why can’t you be authentic and admit responsibility for your actions. It’s really weird actually. Everyone can see you’re not being authentic or honest.

  22. Wayne says:

    No choice? There’s always a choice buddy. You chose to cower

  23. Alex says:

    Honestly, when I read their statements I assumed they still wanted to release the Interview, just not on Christmas Day. Offering another day or a DOV would have kept the hackers emboldened. They need to gain back at least some of the control they lost and go back on the offensive. They used open ended statements. They never once said “We will never release this film.” They said “we’re not going ahead with christmas day” and “we have no plans for VOD” (which could lead to an implied .. yet) They are not definitive statements like, “We’re never releasing the movie” or “We will never release it VOD”. Journalists take that information and repeat back as if the movie is cancelled entirely. I hate to say this but why the f* didn’t Lynton talk to Obama? Is someone waiting for the other to pick up the phone? They should be working together, they might be working together. What we don’t know as the public is far greater than what is told to us as “true”, specially with regard to the government and large corporations.

  24. Michael Anthony says:

    If Sony didn’t cave, those of us who wanted to see the film, would be doing so over the holidays.

    Sony should have remembered all the controversial films made during WWII, the Cold War, Iraq, and post 9/11, that poked fun and hate at our adversaries. America would have stood with then in defiance of North Korea. And since China controls NK, perhaps slap done sanctions against them from buying any more property in the US. China needs us more than we need them, according to economists.

  25. Matt Kennedy says:

    At least when a belt buckles, it doesn’t claim that it didn’t.

  26. kosmicegg says:

    Best publicity for a movie, yet. Maybe if Kim Jong Un extorts a royalty, you’ll consider it?

  27. Who says:

    There goes any chance of your US government retaliation…

    Sony doesn’t need a distributor to post the film on line if it so chooses.

  28. SPE could step up with SPE-owned Crackle, but, surely, it’s easier to ignore that opportunity than publicly discuss the windowing rights.

  29. gicalgary says:

    “We did not cave”.. Yeah, right.. If he caved any more there would be a crater where his corporate offices are. He is sitting quite straight for someone without a spine..

  30. Mia says:

    Lol..What a joke! I can’t believe he would let that come out of his mouth. Lynton is trying to do a whole lot of smoke screening. Man up and admit that you and SP made a mistake and acted prematurly. Don’t get mad at Obama for calling it what it is and quit blaming the theaters. You guys caved and gave in, point blank period! Redeem what little dignity you and Sony may have and release the damn movie!

  31. LogynxRunn says:

    How to fix this: Have every network simultaneously run The Interview on a specific day and time. Sony needs to stop looking for a way to recoup any money from this debacle, and look at is a FUCK YOU to North Korea. After that, the film will be copy and disseminated everywhere, and NK won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

  32. catherbo says:

    Is President Obama willing to take his children to see this movie on Christmas Day? Is it worth his life and his children’s lives? I think not.

    • nerdrage says:

      Obama doesn’t take his kids to the movies, he has a theater in the White House. However, he probably doesn’t want Sasha and Malia watching something so puerile and stupid.

    • JackieT says:

      You’re an idiot. N Korea has zero capability to attack anything other than a computer. Stop being so afraid just because someone invokes the term “9/11”. So sad that’s what some people have been deduced to.

  33. jjl80126 says:

    ….And taking part in this discussion, From Sony’s Legal Department, Nathan Thurm….

  34. Lupin500 says:

    The truth is that this is not about the threat or the theaters. This is simply about accepting their terms so that they don’t release bad shit about him in the promised “Christmas gift”. It would be hilarious if they will release it nonetheless.

  35. mts says:

    If it says Sony I’ll keep my Mony.

  36. JackieT says:

    If SONY really had any balls they would leak the film onto all of the pirate websites that Hollywood wants taken down. Let the hackers take them down and cause those sites great misery. Then release the film on digital download via the very site that the hackers dumped all the stolen info on. If they want to destroy that site also. So be it.

  37. Carlo Irwin says:

    Course, there is still the fact that Sony IS NOT an American corporation at all. It is owned by a Japanese corporation and its home office is in Japan. I cannot claim original knowledge of this as a previous blogger had noted this. It does make one think however. Do we still become outraged by
    this. Personally, I think that North Korea should be taken to task for hiring hackers to break into
    Sony’s computers. And I do believe it is wrong for a country to try to dictate terms to another. And
    remember, it’s a damn comedy for crying out loud.

  38. Wayne says:

    ….and? What now Mr. Lynton????

  39. TBGee says:

    What a crock of sh*t! YOU pulled the film’s release. You ‘don’t own theaters’ is such an inauthentic cop out to slide the blame. Let the theaters who want to show it to be able to show it. They can’t now. Because you did cave. You pulled the film. You are the reason we can’t see that film. Not the threat or the hackers. You are. You have not “persevered” at all. You were successful in not being sent angry emails anymore because you did exactly what the hackers asked you to do. You persevered only in giving in to their demands. Be authentic about it. Admit you might have acted prematurely and screwed up in pulling the film’s release ‘indefinitely’ as your press statement read.

  40. srvwp2013 says:

    I rarely agree with “Hollywood,” and I never agree with Barack. On this issue I side with Sony. The implications of some sort of terror being staged on Christmas Day and through the Holidays Season are too great not to make a decision on the side of caution. Since 9/11 America has been instructed to be on the alert. Even if you think you only see or suspect something, report it. If the American Government had connected dots prior to 9/11, 9/11 may not have happened. If the backward North Koreans can do this much damage over a decade after 9/11, then America has made little or no progress toward defending the Homeland. Barack is growing senile and taking Hollywood’s money in shameful ways, and then has the gall to bite the hands that have outrageously fed him. The whole system is corrupt. We cannot bomb, or whatever the North Koreans back to the stone-age (which they are now not far from) on any day and or night of the year, but free speech, civil liberties, censorship, etc, can be defended and will be defended as we stop to consider Christmas, Hanukkah, EID, Kwanza Chinese New Year and some peace during these Holidays.

    Barack is just trying to establish a legacy, far too little and far too late, with just two years left in his history as President. Cuba, North Korea — this is all just hype, marketing, the selling of the “Barack Presidential Library.” We all now what a 6 and ultimately 8 year waste of time this has been in America. It has been only an extension of the waste of 8 years under the smirking Bush. America will have lost 16 years of growth, progress, its present and future and even the stone-age North Koreans know this. Even the barbaric Al Queda, ISIS and ISIL and their ilk have taken up gruesome arms against America and it continues to continue.

    • Afr0 says:

      You are a goddamned idiot.

    • Geri says:

      How ridiculous. It’s President Obama – whether you personally like him or not. The fact that you don’t know this basic fact is just one of many reasons your argument holds no water. Look – the sky is falling.

    • TBGee says:

      So all anyone needs to do is say “9/11” and you run for the hills? These hackers are a far away country that has zero military capability to affect anyone other than their neighbor. Homeland Security said their theater threat is nonsense. Grow up and grow some balls. All of the blame in this falls on SONY. They didn’t tell the FBI when they were hacked back in February. That’s why the hackers got admin access to their systems. Had SONY gone to the FBI back then and discovered the hackers got access probably none of this would have happened. SONY has been too concerned about looking bad in the corporate world. Understandable. But, look where it got them. I can threaten you all I want, but you always have a choice in how you are going to respond. Stand tall and gather support (FBI, community, etc) for your cause. Or run away. SONY ran. It’s okay. But, don’t lie about it now. You can never stop a cyber attack from beginning. You can only prepare ahead of time and if they succeed you can choose how to respond. It’s that simple.

  41. Robbie Goldstein says:

    Why in God’s name couldn’t he have kept his mouth shut. What is the necessity to go after a president when your Co-Chairman and Rudin send tainted racist messages about him. Your lawyers must have missed their constitutional class at their Ivy League law schools. And you have PR people advising you like the ones telling Hitler the war still can be won, as bombs were dropping on his bunker. Just keep it quite

  42. Justsayin says:

    Makes me wonder that perhaps the picture is such a dog that this is their way of cutting their losses short.

  43. Arnie Tracey says:

    Really? You were not cowed, Michael? I’m calling your bluff, sir. I say, “Just DO it !!!” . . . Put your movie where your mouth is, if you are such a bad-ass, Mr. Lynton. We’ll see how bad you are.

  44. Benny Ace says:

    ““We have not caved. We have not given in”

    Hmmm. Makes one wonder what “caving” and “giving in” would look like.

  45. onmedea says:

    Wow – he just made things worse with that weak response. “We wanted to show it – it was other people’s fault! We’re awesome. Theater owners are the ones that suck.” Nut up, Lynton! Jesus. Here is a strong executive – if you need an example:

  46. John Shea says:

    “We would still like the public to see this movie,” he added. “Absolutely.”


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