Sony Blames Distributors for The Interview Release Cancellation

interview_xlgIn an interview I heard on NPR, Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton stood firm in saying Sony didn’t capitulate to the hackers who have terrorized the company for some time now. The hubbub was around the cancellation of the release of The Interview on Christmas day.

In his view, they saw the film as continuing the grand tradition of political satire, and saw nothing wrong with releasing it.

Lynton’s interview came a few hours after President Obama called the decision to not release the film a “mistake.”

Lynton danced around issues in the distribution system in place for movies. In the interview he stood firm by the fact that Sony had the intention of releasing the film. The movie company didn’t cancel their current plans until theaters decided to not screen the film. With few theaters willing to do so, Sony’s hands were tied, and the decision to delay the release was made.

We did not capitulate. We don’t own movie theaters, and we require movie theater owners to be there for us to distribute our film. We very much wanted to keep the picture in release. When the movie theaters decided that they could not put our movie in their theaters, we had no choice at that point but to not have the movie come out on the 25th of December. This was not our decision.

In the interview Lynton was pressed why the company wasn’t releasing the film digitally. Lynton said it was something they were considering, but were having issues finding partners willing to join them in the release.

While he was much more diplomatic than he needed to be, it was clear Lynton lays the blame at the theaters, and digital distributors fear that they will be the target of a cyber attack if they release the film. That’s exactly what I pointed out in my earlier coverage of the news.

Here’s his direct quote:

Yes, those are other avenues and we are actively exploring them …. to date, we don’t have any takers — neither on the video demand side nor on the e-commerce side. People have been generally fearful about the possibility of their systems being corrupted, and so there have been a lot of conversations about the robustness of various systems to be able to make sure they’re not hacked, if and when we put the movie out digitally.

I shouldn’t say if — when. We would very much like that to happen. But we do need partners to make that happen. We ourselves do not have a distribution platform to put the movie out.

It looks like we’ll eventually get to see the film, it’s just a question of when, no longer if.

In an email release, the company said:

It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.

That reiterates what Lynton said in the interview.

What stood out to me was the emphasis that the film wasn’t being released due to the fact it was pulled from theaters, and that digital distributors weren’t willing to bite. It emphasizes that we as consumers do in fact have our choices limited by gatekeepers such as movie theater chains, and digital avenues like iTunes or Amazon. BitTorrent, the filing sharing technology and company, stepped up to help with digital distribution through its BitTorrent Bundle.

The President said during a press conference:

We cannot have a society in which some dictators some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States. If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.

Sony seems to agree. They said in their release:

Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.

You can listen to the interview and get details directly from the company.