×

Sony’s Michael Lynton on Email Hack Lessons: Use the Phone More

The devastating cyber attack that brought Sony to its knees a year ago did provide some painful lessons, Michael Lynton acknowledged at Business Insider’s Ignition conference on Wednesday.

The hack laid the inner workings of the company bare, exposing film budgets and, in the case of Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, a series of racially insensitive exchanges that set off a firestorm of media coverage.

Twelve months later, Pascal has been forced out, replaced by Tom Rothman, the former head of Fox’s film division, but Lynton has remained on board as Sony Entertainment CEO.

“As a culture…we’ve become over-reliant on email,” said Lynton. “There are a lot of things that should be in phone conversations that people are now randomly putting into emails.”

In the wake of the cyber attack, people at the studio have become more careful about what they put in messages, he said.

“People are a little bit more moderate in the way they are expressing themselves,” said Lynton, but he predicted that would change and people would grow less reserved over time.

Popular on Variety

“I’m sure people are saying things probably they shouldn’t,” he said. “It is the entertainment business.”

Lynton said that the focus for many studios has been on beefing up their cyber security. That’s important, he said, but he said it was equally critical to have connections to law enforcement agencies such as the FBI.

“There are plenty of places to call, but you need to know who to call,” said Lynton.

The hack on Sony was believed to have been launched by North Korea in retaliation for the studio’s plans to release “The Interview,” a raunchy comedy that depicted the assassination of the country’s dictator Kim Jong-Un. Terrorist threats forced Sony to scrap a traditional theatrical release in favor of offering the movie for sale on digital platforms and in some art house theaters. The film was a big seller, but Lynton said that the numbers it put up should not be used as a model for how most films would perform if they were made available on home entertainment platforms earlier. As it stands, most movies have to wait 90 days after they debut in theaters before they launch on demand or on disc.

Lynton noted that the studio didn’t have time to create a well-thought-out marketing campaign for the movie and used services like Google that were just starting to provide films for rent and sale.

“A lot of people bought the movie out of patriotism,” he said. “I’m not sure that if you were to go out and release a movie day and date with theatrical that this is the way you would do it.”

Beyond the hack, Lynton said the movie business was changing. Digital players like Netflix have begun producing films and consumers have grown accustomed to having oceans of content available to stream. That explosion in content providers and platforms hasn’t fostered a rising generation of cinephiles, he argued.

“The more choice and the more availability doesn’t actually mean that you’re going to watch it and you’re going to listen to it,” said Lynton, who believes younger consumers have grown less interested in films made before 1995.

Lynton said people are telling themselves, “I don’t need to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ now. It’s not going anywhere.”

In order to grow the film business, studios have become increasingly reliant of foreign markets such as Russia and China. That means that films, once believed to be the largest exporter of American values, have grown more multi-cultural in their make-up.

“We pull back a little bit on the American jingoism,” said Lynton.

More Film

  • The Painter and the Thief

    Neon Takes Worldwide Rights on Benjamin Ree’s ‘The Painter and the Thief’

    Neon has acquired worldwide rights to “The Painter and the Thief,” directed by Benjamin Ree, which made its world premiere at Sundance, where it won the world cinema documentary special jury prize for creative storytelling. The film was produced by Ingvil Giske and executive produced by Academy Award winning filmmaker Morgan Neville. When two paintings [...]

  • Oliver-Berben-and-Uli-Edel

    Constantin TV, ZDF, Global Screen, Team on 'The Palace' (EXCLUSIVE)

    BERLIN — Constantin Film, the No. 1 German independent behind the “Resident Evil” franchise, is teaming with German public broadcaster ZDF to produce “The Palace,” (“Friedrichstadt-Palast”) a period drama set at the celebrated Berlin music hall. Global Screen will handle international distribution. “Last Exit to Brooklyn’s” Uli Edel will re-team with Constantin Television, directing the [...]

  • Berlin: Embankment Rides With Frankie Dettori

    Berlin: Embankment Rides With Frankie Dettori Documentary 'Frankie'

    Embankment has launched worldwide sales at the European Film Market on feature documentary “Frankie,” the story of champion jockey Frankie Dettori, winner of more than 3,000 races. The film shadows Dettori for one season as, at 49, he looks to win a record third Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe on Enable, his most beloved horse. [...]

  • Pathé Inks Major Pre-Sales on Emilia

    Pathé Inks Major Pre-Sales on Emilia Jones Starrer 'Coda' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Pathé has closed major pre-sales on Sian Heder’s anticipated film “Coda,” starring Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez and Marlee Matlin, after unveiling an exclusive promo reel of the film at EFM. An English-language remake of the French smash hit “La Famille Belier,” “Coda” is being produced by Philippe Rousselet and Fabrice Gianfermi at Vendôme Group, alongside [...]

  • Greenwich Takes U.S. Rights to Caroline

    Greenwich Takes U.S. Rights to Oscar-Winner Caroline Link's 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit'

    Beta Cinema has sold the German box-office hit “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” by Oscar-winner Caroline Link to the U.S. Greenwich Entertainment picked up the rights to the feature, which has attracted almost one million admissions since its Christmas release in Germany alone. German media lauded the film, calling it “a real godsend for the [...]

  • 'H Is for Happiness' Review

    'H Is for Happiness': Film Review

    More often than not, “A” festival competitions privilege the arty over the entertaining, so hats off to the Berlinale Generation section, where the two qualities frequently coexist. A case in point: the delightful coming-of-age dramedy “H Is for Happiness,” which provides feel-good entertainment for the entire family without pandering — and definitely without sacrificing style [...]

  • 'Jinpa' Review

    ‘Jinpa’: Film Review

    After roaming for more than a year on the international festival circuit, “Jinpa” — the latest effort from Tibetan director Pema Tseden (“Old Dog,” “Tharlo”) — has finally launched a limited run in U.S. art houses, where it might find an appreciative if occasionally perplexed audience for its idiosyncratic mix of deadpan wit and understated [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content