In case you missed the internet yesterday, Wednesday December 17th, we’re all about to finally get our hands on some of those nice Cuban cigars, but we won’t be smoking them this Christmas at a nationwide release of WW3-provocative film The Interview. Talking heads on television and word on the Twitter seems to be blaming everyone from Sony Pictures Entertainment to a faceless band of hackers known as the GOP (Guardians of Peace), or film Co-Creator Seth Rogen to the undercooked North Korean dicktator himself, Kim Jong Un. Entertaining as conspiracy theories may be, or easy as a bandwagon is to jump on, herein follows my own assessment of the situation and predictions for the future of this film, our industry, cyberterrorism, and the fate of our race as we know it…
Late Monday afternoon, Seth Rogen was interviewed on The Colbert Report, during which there wasn’t even a hint of trepidation or concern of the film being pulled. The next day, the film’s New York Premiere was cancelled and Sony opened up to theater chains, basically telling them they need not screen the film if there were any internal concerns for their own safety or that of moviegoers, in light of the recent, singular e-mail threat which vaguely warned of 9/11-comparable attacks if the film were to open. Carmike Cinemas were the first to pull, followed by Regal, AMC, Cinemark and Cineplex Entertainment, all quickly over the course of the next day.
Wednesday was that next day, and sure enough, Sony cancelled their plans for a guaranteed blockbuster Christmas Day opening. Despite whatever tweets and posts you’ll read, whichever pundit or commentator you hear, that’s precisely what happened. Sony pulled their own movie after a series of theater chains set the trend… not the United States as a whole. Not the American people. Not our own government. In fact, President Obama quite recently said… in his own interview… there was no detected threat whatsoever, even suggesting that people should just “go to the movies” on Christmas Day, if they so desire. So no, “we” did not cave on our own First Amendment, but rather a major studio tentatively shelved the release of a controversial new film. But why this one?
Despite looking like a contemporary mainstream comedy, this is certainly no ordinary movie. In less than a day, Sony saw all major theater chains pulling out, in their own respective best interests, surely to avoid an incident from some one-off whack job… something even as (comparably) minor as that shooting in Denver during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Such a tragedy should never happen again, let alone on Christmas, so does it really surprise you that a major chain wouldn’t want to carry such a guilt if it were to actually happen in one of their own theaters? Especially when there’s still going to be a huge box office draw, in lieu of The Interview, namely with heavyweight Into The Woods opening and millions of tickets from further Hobbit & Night of the Museum screenings, plus other major December and Christmas Day releases. It only took one madman in Colorado to kill 12 people, on a night which really held no special meaning or significance, other than that of a movie opening. The same result could have came from a midnight premiere at a previous Harry Potter sequel or with the next Star Wars; inside any other screening room of a major release that breeds such loyal fandom.
I seriously doubt North Korea was directly behind the original Sony hack and I further doubt this so-called GOP is more than a handful of senseless, spineless nerds who are simply spreading an established fear, just as Anonymous copy-cats did a few years back. But with all the attention this story and film has gotten, if there were ever a time and place for another lonely maniac to let loose, this event is definitely ripe with potential. When you weigh it all out, it’s simply not worth the risk to screen that movie on that day… not to any theater chain and certainly not to Sony… so I really can’t blame either for their decisions.
Sony has a lot of money invested in The Interview, an estimated $42 million budget and probably just as much on marketing. As soon as a reasonable way to recoup their expense presents itself, instead of having an otherwise sure-fire hit totally fall flat on it’s opening weekend because you won’t find it in any major theater chain… eventually it’ll be released. My own vote is for a free, worldwide premiere online Christmas Day, just to spite whoever made the threats and the entire situation, but it’s not my $100 million invested here. Or maybe a day-of premium VOD release, but it’ll probably just get pushed back to Spring ’15, once the theater chains are a bit more at ease, when it will still yield a solid opening weekend, without the threat of a Christmas disaster. Heck, it might even make more after all this attention.
Part of me thinks Co-Creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg reached a point in their careers, within the Hollywood studio system, knowing full-well they could get such a movie released, stirring up the fire to a point that it might actually cause such a commotion, ultimately inciting a series of events at the global level to potentially change the terrible condition that is life in North Korea. It’s beautiful to see a movie, or any piece of art, conjure enough emotion that moves it’s audience to a point where they’ll actually go out and make a difference. If the society you wish to change is never affected, though, why bother to make it in the first place? I’m not hoping for war, far from it… but maybe all this madness can spark something less-than-tragic that will quite possibly make a difference in their confined, isolated world.
TL;DR – You can’t just blame Sony, or the theaters, or the last gunman who shot up a screening. It’s a hot-topic movie, as it was surely intended to be, so some type of major reaction like this should have been expected. But blaming the U.S. in general, or to credit North Korea’s regime for getting the movie “cancelled” (which I guarantee to be temporary) is an even greater oversimplification of this entire situation, insultingly naive toward the people of both nations. I think everyone on the homefront just wants to make sure that we have a Merry Christmas in reflection of the muddled, socially distraught year we seem to have had. The movie can wait, especially now after garnering all the attention it clearly called for.