‘The Interview’ Fallout: Theater Owners Angry at Sony for Shifting Blame

The Interview Seth Rogen James Franco

Theater owners are incensed that Sony Pictures Entertainment has insisted in public statements that they are the major reason the studio canceled the release of “The Interview.”

Exhibitors believe that they are being made the scapegoat for the cancellation when many of them only wanted the film’s premiere to be delayed or modified, three theater industry executives tell Variety.

After hackers threatened theaters that screened “The Interview” and moviegoers who bought tickets to the film while evoking the memory of 9/11, Sony said in a statement last week that the majority of exhibitors cancelled their bookings. That characterization has been disputed in exhibition circles. The exhibition executives said that several chains asked only to delay playing the movie until the authorities could discover who was behind the message or had apprehended the criminals who hacked the studio.

Authorities have since said that North Korea is behind the hackings as punishment for Sony backing “The Interview,” which centers on a plot to kill the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

In an interview with CNN on Friday, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said, “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…Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.”

His remarks came after President Barack Obama said Sony had made a “mistake” in pulling the film because it emboldened the North Korean hackers who have tormented the studio for weeks. Lynton said Sony still hopes to release the film.

Following his interview on CNN, Lynton reached out the heads of major theater chains such as Carmike, Regal and AMC by phone to say that he had not meant to imply they were wholly responsible for the film being pulled and that he understood their safety concerns. Those conversations were civil on both sides, according to individuals with knowledge.

His words may not have done enough to assuage feelings across the exhibition industry. Among the repercussions being weighed are that some exhibitors will refuse to pay Sony the film terms they once did or will decline to guarantee the same screen counts for its lower profile films. They may also be more lax when it comes to promoting Sony films on their websites or in their theaters with posters and other materials. These potential measures have yet to be communicated to Sony.

Sony Pictures still hopes to release “The Interview” by the end of 2014, but the comedy will likely forgo a theatrical release, according to a source close to studio.

Instead, the film will be made available through a patchwork of electronic sell through, video on demand and other home entertainment platforms, the source said. There may be some road blocks. No major distributor has signed on yet and some have expressed concerns that they will be targeted by the hackers who have terrorized Sony for weeks if they carry the picture.

Even if the film secures enough distribution platforms, it may have difficulty recouping the roughly $75 million the studio spent to make and market the picture.

There will also be ruffled feathers to smooth over with theater owners, particularly those that dispute Sony’s claims that their refusal to show the picture led the studio to pull the film. Some theater chains, including Canadian chain Cineplex, suggested opening the film in limited release in a few key markets over the holidays in order to gauge if threats were real. Others, such as Carmike, were careful to say in public statements that they were delaying the release.

Instead of postponing the release or doing a limited rollout, Sony said Wednesday that it had no further release plans for the film — a position it has since modified.

A spokesman for Sony declined to comment.

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  1. Opinion says:

    Its just a movie folks. I’d like to say the studio wasn’t using James Franco and Seth Rogen to make a political statement, however, I can’t say that with certainty. o.k so don’t make movies such as Selma, 12 Years a Slave or The Butler because there may be some black people that may be offended; don’t make 300, Gladiator or The Godfather because there may be someone of Grecian or Italian descent that may be offended. Don’t make movies like Red Dawn or Red Heat because somewhere, some group of Russians may be insulted. Be wary of Machete or Scarface because it may offend not only peoples of Latin lineage but the Cartels as well. In the grand scheme of things, there is a long history of cultures poking fun at other cultures. I’m not saying its right or wrong, just that its been around for a very long time. You think North Korea’s,rhetoric stops at news releases? Cuba? Venezuela? And alas, cultural myopia is usually how it all starts. Are we ready for a societal shift in which we treat everyone with respect? Again, its just a movie folks

  2. Jason says:

    “No major distributor has signed on yet…” What about Sony Home Entertainment? I hear they own that.

  3. JOE S HILL says:

    We still don’t get it-SONY is solely at fault here,for even making this movie,,and dares to imply that
    this offensive gesture is their “creative right”,,a creative right to what,,provoking a dangerous war
    with a North Korean dictator,by making a comedy about sending two idiots,pressured by the CIA to asassinate this man,and they wonder why Kim Jong Un wants to engage in a war with Americans,
    because we arrogantly chose to compound this insult,by thinking that this bullshit is supposed to be as
    funny as “SPIES LIKE US”,,really? if ever i disliked Sony Pictures Studios,this is it! these people should’ve known better,,but no,,that’s not THEIR fault,,that’s Kim Jong Un’s fault,because he doesn’t have
    a good sense of Humor,while he watches a major Hollywood studio destroy the man’s public image,and
    to compound the insult even further,by sending a pair of idiots,to try and kill the man-so please explain to me,how this offensive gesture is supposed to be Funny? it sure must be funny,when they(Sony Studios)
    got hacked by Cyber Terrorists,and it sure has to be a barrel of laughs,when American moviegoers get
    threatened with 9/11 Terror attacks,ALL because they want to see and mock somebody,who,not well liked in the West,has become the perfect Horse’s ass,for a movie that is anything,but Humorous! and we
    as Americans,wonder why other countries around the world,want to kill us a million times over,because
    we abuse our creative freedoms,in such an irresponsible manner? i’m sorry,but i have zero sympathy for
    Sony Studios-and i hope that their higher-ups in Japan decide to get out of the movie making business
    for good,and stick to making better Electronics,which is what they’re good at doing! but the studio people
    like this Amy Pascal,needs to be fired,along with her boss,and many others in this studio,who crossed a very serious and dangerous line,when they decided to make “THE INTERVIEW”,knowing fully well what
    the consequences would result into! i’m not advocating for North Korea,,but i can certainly understand the
    rage that this dictator has to be going through,when we in American decide to make this man into a source of humor and entertainment,,now,he has more then enough reasons to engage in war with our
    country,because THIS is what we did! and like it or not,Sony acted irresponsibly here,,and that could still
    plunge this country into war,or worse,make this studio,and other Americans targets! NOT WORTH IT!
    if we have learned anything from the events of 9/11/01,that is NEVER to underestimate Terrorists,big,obscure,or small! and foolishly choosing to produce a movie,that has provoked a dictator
    into an angry rage,is NOT acting or behaving in responsible boundaries! this is on Sony,or anyone else
    in Hollywood,who think that they can do as they please!

  4. Greg says:

    As a moviegoer (not an employee of Sony or a theater owner), I had already decided NOT to go see Into the Woods with my wife on Christmas as long as The Interview was showing in the same building. For all this blame-shifting, has anyone considered the possibility that people would not show up even if it played?

  5. Jim says:

    ‘The Interview’ Fallout: Theater Owners Angry at Sony for Shifting Blame

    BAN SONY!

  6. Neil Blatt says:

    Major Distributors and Exhibitors have a relationship built on mutual support. Exhibition would have played this movie had Sony not given them the green light to pull the film if they were nervous. I myself got into a major bust up with Sony over not wanting to play “Poetic Justice” at Universal City on opening day as I wanted to open it 5 days late to avoid gang violence that we had experienced on “boys in the Hood”. Mark Canton accused us of racism in the press, it wasn’t pretty, our relationship chilled. No one arbitrarily pulls an agreed date without fear of serious repercussions.

  7. Geosota says:

    Spin the blame pointer, kids.
    I shouted out,
    Who killed the Kennedys?
    When after all
    It was you and me
    (Who who, who who)

  8. i think pretending to kill their leader, using a guy that barely looks like him and being silly and childish about it, isn’t as damaging as the report i saw last night which repeated the “rumor”–but adjusted it to 2, not 3 inches–that north koreans born after the war and isolation are 2 inches shorter on average than south koreans due to malnutrition; and (not mentioned) probably inbreeding for 50 years. we can make fun of fat boy and prance to katy perry and it’s all really funny and makes 500 million worldwide but i bet there is no valid “insult” in this film; the reality of DPRK is unbelievably horrible and why aren’t news people afraid to do THAT story? they said they got all their info from askmen(dot)com and just compiled a list of unbelievable things about them.

  9. Maralyn says:

    Let the theater owners stand up to North Korea and showy the bloody movie

  10. Jake says:

    This is beyond infuriating. If theaters had decided to show the film, then it would have been shown but who blames them for bailing after what happened in Colorado.

  11. Sam says:

    If I were Japan, I would flip the bird to every American component involved in this embarrassing and costly debacle including: the American subsidiary and its leadership, the American government and the American media. It’s staggering the level of disregard, finger-pointing and incompetence.

  12. John Shea says:

    This article, and its ‘Repercussions’ paragraph in particular, just sounds like Variety fanning the flames and stirring the pot.

  13. Jacques Strappe says:

    Wow, who knew the North Koreans actually hacked into the accounts of The Three Stooges, not SONY? Both SONY and the ultra right wing executive management of the Regal movie chain, the largest US exhibitor chain, are creating far more entertainment and laughs than The Interview would be capable of. This is private business at its finest, pointing fingers and playing the blame game and looking like total clueless morons in the process. When all else fails, there is always the fallback option, “it’s Obama’s fault”…because everyone knows, the leader of the free world is also in charge of SONY’s (and Target’s and Home Depot’s and Chase’s and every retail chain’s and bank’s) digital security, in addition to dictating what specifically theater chains should exhibit. Many keep saying that SONY is merely trying to prevent more damaging information being released by the North Korean hackers. That ship has already sailed and SONY should assume it will all be released in an attempt to discredit SONY. Banks and retailers are constantly having to re-evaluate their web security and collectively reissue millions of credit and debit cards that might have been put at risk through hacking efforts.

  14. harry georgatos says:

    The lunatics are in control at Sony. These lunatics have to be removed as they go from one calamity to the next in damage control that only shines the light on themselves in how ridiculous they”ve become! Just admit it and say it comes down to the emails. At the end of the day these hackers are going to distribute all the incriminating emails they have in their possession regardless if THE INTERVIEW gets released or not.

  15. 1favored says:

    It’s all about the emails…the emails….the emails….not the terrorists…not the White House…not the theatres’ owners…the emails!!!!

  16. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    Exhibitors in no way or form should be held responsible when a Studio pulls the plug on a film. Paranoia and media hysteria along with legit threats of violence led to Homeland Security’s demands for Sony to stop the film from USA and International Theatrical release. The theater owner had to honor those terms. And I expect all theatrical rental agreements will be cancelled.

    • InsuranceMoney? says:

      Neither Hameland Security nor the FBI recommended pulling the picture. The verbal threats of the GOP did not rise to the threshold of a credible or verifiable threat in any form.

      • J.E. Vizzusi says:

        I stand corrected on The Homeland Security issue but we have no way of knowing just how much government infiltration and advise was given to pull the film from release.

  17. Fred says:

    I truly believe Sony had more skeletons in the closet in those emails why would they be so quick to not release a movie, secondly common sense shows what the CEO at Sony lacks how in the world would this GOP would know who saw this movie, for it to be GOP they don’t seem like peace if they was threaten a movie theater…it’s more to it. But for them at Sony to give in to a dictator rule country it’s best it relocate there instead of good old USA.

  18. If Sony is brave enough to release it on iTunes, it will not only be a great business decision, but its success will accidentally open the floodgates to A-list first runs on-demand.

  19. Sazzy says:

    I seriously can’t believe the hackers are winning this game… Whether or not they’re North Koreans or just some clever little boys who need to get a real job instead of giggling in their bedrooms, they can’t be allowed to affect a corporation this big like this. Sony execs gotta say sorry to those affected by their emails but never EVER let the hackers win!!

    North Korea did propose cyber war months ago, though…

    http://thisisnews.co/2013/04/06/getting-ready-for-cyber-war/

  20. Julian Lopez says:

    Karen chapman doesn’t know what she is talking about. This is a free country, things don’t work like that. The victim is not just Sony who ran scared but the entire US and freedom of speech.

  21. cadavra says:

    If Harry Cohn were still running the studio, he would have told the hackers to go fuck themselves. In precisely those words.

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      Agreed although Cohn’s big mouth would of started or continued the war with Korea! When giant Corporations took over, its the beginning of the end of Hollywood!

    • jhs39 says:

      That’s true but after nearly all of Hollywood turned out for Harry Cohn’s funeral Red Skeleton supposedly quipped on television a few days later–““It only proves what they always say—give the public something they want to see, and they’ll come out for it.”

  22. karen chapman says:

    The United States was attacked by North Korea. Our government is supposed to protect our nation. If President Obama was a leader, he would have spoken to the theatre chains, told them to play the film and assured them that the federal government would provide national guard protection and insurance liability costs if a problem ensued.

    Instead, he blamed the victim, Sony. Disingenuous.

    Sony provides jobs, and the revenue lost by Sony is lost by America.

    • Brandon Bell says:

      Karen, you watch too much Fox. Sony is a private, Japanese company. Why would our government get involved in anything they do. They should have done a better job protecting themselves.

    • jhs39 says:

      Attacking a for profit corporation through hacking is not the same as attacking the United States. Sony is responsible for its own computer security and its own decisions. The United States does not run Sony Entertainment or their IT department. You are another example of the small-minded and pathetic who choose to blame Obama for anything and everything that happens anywhere in the world.

    • Angee says:

      No he didn’t That’s not what happened at all. Homeland security put out a statement saying there is no credible evidence that N Korea could carry out their threat. And, Obama said play the movie. It’s that simple. Everything else is a creation in your own head.

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