Sony Cancels “The Interview”… Volume Two

This week’s key story of Sony cancelling the release of Seth Rogen and James Franco’s controversial satire “The Interview” keeps changing and throwing up new developments every hour it seems. For the events through until Wednesday night, see here.

Yesterday, a new promo for the film appeared on Sony’s YouTube channel which gave rise to some discussion about the movie potentially getting a direct-to-VOD release. Since then though, that clip and all the official clips from the film have been pulled. Both USA Today and CNN have also reported this morning that the hacker group, called the Guardians Of Peace, issued a message last night to the studio.

The contents of that message they seem to disagree on – one claims it indicates Sony can release the film once it does some judicious edits, the other claims they want Sony to make sure the movie is never released, distributed or leaked in any form and the removal of all the studio’s promotional trailers for the movie.

Earlier today came word that The Directors Guild of America has publicly thrown its support behind the film’s directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Actor George Clooney gave a lengthy interview to Deadline about the dangerous precedent set by the film’s pulling:

“What happens if a newsroom decides to go with a story, and a country or an individual or corporation decides they don’t like it? Forget the hacking part of it. You have someone threaten to blow up buildings, and all of a sudden everybody has to bow down.

Sony didn’t pull the movie because they were scared; they pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it. And they said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you’re going to be responsible. We have a new paradigm, a new reality, and we’re going to have to come to real terms with it all the way down the line.”

The biggest development in the past 48 hours though came only a few hours ago when the the FBI announced in a statement that North Korea was “responsible” for the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment:

“As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions.”

The full statement, including how they came to this determination, can be found on the FBI’s official site.

Shortly after, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a press conference in which he said Sony Pictures “made a mistake” in refusing to release the movie, and says the Government is planning a response:

“We will respond proportionately and in a space, time and manner that we choose. We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States. Americans cannot change their patterns of behaviour due to the possibility of a terrorist attack. That’s not who we are, that’s not what America is about.”

To see his comments, head to C-SPAN’s YT channel. Shortly after that, Sony president Michael Lynton weighed in on the comments and backlash the studio has been receiving, telling CNN:

“In this instance, the president, the press, and the public are mistaken on what actually happened. We do not own movie theaters, we can not determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.

We experienced the worst cyberattack in American history and persevered for three and a half weeks under enormous stress and enormous difficulty, all with the effort of trying to keep our business up and running and get this movie out to the public. We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered, and we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Lynton claims VOD companies were no different that exhibitors, they’re all too afraid to release the film for fear of potential liability:

“There are a number of options open to us and we have considered those and are considering them. As it stands right now – while there have been a number of suggestions that we go out there and deliver this movie digitally or through VOD, there has not been one major video on demand distributor or one major e-commerce site that has stepped forward and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us. Again, we don’t have that direct interface with the American public so we need to go through an intermediary to do that.”

This story is ongoing and will probably continue well into the Christmas break. Stay tuned.