Even as the U.S. government reportedly has assigned blame for the hack of Sony Pictures’ computer network squarely on North Korea, studio executives are coming under attack from Hollywood insiders and tweet-enabled outsiders both for what they’ve done and for what they apparently have no intentions of doing. Not only has the movie been yanked from the big screen, it won’t be streaming on iPads either.
“We have found linkage to the North Korean government,” a government source tells NBC News’ Pete Williams, Robert Windrem and Andrea Mitchell about the ongoing release of confidential information stored in the Sony computer system over the last few weeks as well as the more recent threat of an attack at movie theaters daring to show the action-comedy.
Indeed, unnamed government sources were spreading the attribution to Korea at many national news organizations, some with the suggestion that the U.S. would respond, though it’s not clear exactly how.
“Until Wednesday, the Obama administration had been saying it was not immediately clear who might have been responsible for the computer break-in,” write the Associated Press’ Eric Tucker and Ted Bridis.
Meanwhile, the White House National Security Council, which has a special section on its website dedicated to “the administration’s priorities on cybersecurity,” said in a statement yesterday that “the U.S. government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice,” NBC reports. “We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists’ freedom of speech or of expression.”
So do commentators.
“Sony Should Stream ‘The Interview’ — Now,” reads the hed on top of a story by Time’s James Poniewozik, echoing a suggestion made by Len Stein of Visibility Public relations in the comments to our story yesterday about the cancellation of the movie’s distribution in theaters.
“Plain and simple, free speech lost a battle here,” writes Poniewozik.
“Sony was stupid to make a movie about killing Kim Jung-Un," Seoul-based scholar and North Korea expert Andrei Lankov tells Fox News’ Greg Palkot, Lucas Tomlinson and Hollie McKay, “but it was even more stupid to cave in to pressure.”
“Sony should fight fire with fire: Make ‘The Interview’ available online, for free, on every pirate site in the world. In HD,” Digital Disruption author James McQuivey wrote in a tweet to CNN's Brian Stelter, writes CNN Money’s Frank Pallotta.
But the studio last night “discouraged speculation that it might release the film digitally,” reports Pallotta, with a spokesperson saying, “Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film” in response to questions about digital distribution.
It “also removed any mention of the movie from its website by Wednesday afternoon,” Kevin Johnson, Oren Dorell and Elizabeth Weise report in USA Today.
It “could have been a pioneer — a landmark moment for digital distribution — but Sony's comment on Wednesday night seemed to preempt the idea,” Pallotta observes.
Pundits from within the industry were not caught with their Twitter accounts down.
Both BBC News and the Telegraph have roundups of what the latter calls Hollywood’s incredulity in general over what talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel in particular calls Sony's “unAmerican act of cowardice.” Actor Rob Lowe tweeted: “Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today ….”
“The filmmaker Michael Moore offered a more tongue-in-cheek riposte: “Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I'd also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers,” reports the Telegraph’s Josie Ensor.
The decision to shelve the movie “is viewed by industry insiders as a game changer, writes the BBC’s Tim Masters. “Films have been pulled from cinemas before, but the set of circumstances around ‘The Interview’ is unprecedented.”
To be fair, there was plenty of pusillanimity to go around. Theater chains were “defecting en masse,” Variety’s Brent Lang points out in his lede, preceding the cancellation by Sony. But many of them suggested that Sony’s “lack of confidence in the film prompted their decision,” he reports. “Regal, for instance, said its decision was ‘due to the wavering support of the film …, as well as the ambiguous nature of any real or perceived security threats.’”
Variety’s Dave McNary, however, points out that Sony’s “move could open the door for Sony to sell the rights to a rival distributor.”
Meanwhile, we have Donald Trump proclaiming in a finger-wagging Facebook video: "While I hear it was a terrible, terrible movie, Sony has absolutely no courage or guts. They should have never pulled it."
Hmmm. This could be a match that could be made only in Hollywood, no?