Commentary by James Turnage
Early reviews of Sony’s movie ‘The Interview’ were not flattering. When the movie giant claimed a cyber-attack devastated its privacy and the private information of its employees, actors, directors, producers, and others, outrage poured out from its very soul. The apparent link between Sony and North Korea relating to the subject matter of the film resulted in Sony executives succumbing to vague threats by an insignificant foreign nation. Most of the country, including the President, criticized Sony for surrendering to a terrorist threat. After major theater chains cancelled their orders for the film, Sony cancelled the release of the movie. On December 24th, they changed their policy. They will release the film on Christmas Day in approximately 200 theaters nationwide, and also on paid internet sites. Before they decided to renege on their decision to cancel the release of ‘The Interview,’ I asked a question; was this a calculated marketing plan by Sony? When reviews were in the ‘poor’ category, was a plan conceived to make the movie a monetary success by nefarious means?
Is Sony making a desperate attempt to move a lost cinematic effort into a profitable venture? This may be the case. Not a single person who reviewed the film gave it a positive critique. Reviewer’s comments defamed the film for its poor attempts at parody and crude references to crude humor. Seth Rogan and James Franco’s performances were rated as unimpressive and simply ‘not funny.’
The movie centers around a CIA attempt to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-Un. Critics agreed that the effort at political satire was a failure from the very beginning. When Sony claimed it received threats of a terrorist nature if the film was released, they initially capitulated. Anger from individuals in the film industry and from the American public were unanimous. When free speech and censorship of artistic expression are suppressed because of threats from an outside source, a violation of the American way of life destroys one of our common beliefs. Our nation cannot fear threats from beyond our shores. Abraham Lincoln himself declared that if the United States is to be destroyed, it will be from within; no nation has or will have the ability to annihilate our country.
Where does this place Sony in the equation? It is difficult to believe that its reasoning for cancelling the release of the film was based on fear of continued attacks from internet access, or violent acts against the theaters who planned to screen the movie. How far would a theatrical organization go to insure a profit from a venture which surely guaranteed financial loss?
Sony officials are making the claim that they are being heroic and rejecting the threat of terrorism by releasing their previously doomed theatrical effort. Is this the truth? Is their reversal a true attempt at patriotism and a denial of fear? Or is the entire incident a ploy by Sony executives to increase their profit margin?
Theaters which have agreed to allow movie fans to view ‘The Interview’ are registering enormous success; it’s a sellout. Would it have been the same if Sony had followed through with its original plans? It seems doubtful. This could be the greatest marketing scam of all time.
By James Turnage