The Interview: Sony’s Problem Child

the-interview-poster1The latest entertainment news is the pull of the release of the “controversial” comedy, The Interview. The film has become the source of controversy due to its “sordid” content featuring an assassination of North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un. Immediately following the announcement of the release of the film, the North Korean government issued statements warning against the release of the film. On November 24, 2014 a hacker group, calling themselves the Guardians of Peace, or GOP, breached Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network. Following the electronic breach, documents were leaked to the Internet containing personal information on Sony employees, pay details for actors, as well as scripts from unreleased films.

The release of personal documents was just the beginning of the conundrum surrounding Sony and the upcoming release of The Interview. The hacker group demanded that the film never be released and warned the “world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th September 2001.” Despite the poor grammar, Sony took notice of such violet threats. The U.S. government claimed that North Korea was the source of the hacking activity. Following the threats, the top five major movie theaters in the U.S. issued statements saying they would not run the film. Left with no other option (as far as they could tell), Sony announced the decision to not release the film to theaters. However, one week later, there have been statements made suggesting the film will be released for free online.

The self-proclaimed “goofy stoner movie” is getting significantly more attention than it would have if Sony were never hacked in the first place. It appears the hacker group’s activity has had an opposite effect from their original intention. Despite the drama surrounding this comedy, it would be in Sony’s best interest to release the film online, and we have three major reasons why.

1. Seth Rogan and James Franco’s Social Media Following
The two major stars of the film, Seth Rogan and James Franco, have significant social media followings, and that is a source of free marketing for the film. Seth Rogan has 2.42 million followers on Twitter, and James Franco has 2.71 million. Not to mention James Franco’s Instagram has an impressive 3 million followers. These “plugged in” fans create an environment conducive to building buzz for the movie. The actors could leverage their fan base and host the ever-popular AMA (ask me anything) sessions on, trend hashtags associated with the film, or start a Kickstarter to run the movie in independent theaters throughout the U.S.

2. Digital film is taking over
Despite what movie theaters want you to think, digital films are taking over the entertainment industry. More and more people are becoming comfortable with the idea of solely watching entertainment from the comfort of their own home. With the ways things are going, everyone in America will likely have a huge screen TV in their home within five years. So, there is no shame in releasing the film straight to digital. Yes, the release of the film lacks the glitz and the glam of a theater release, but the increased accessibility to more viewers will likely illicit a greater number of people seeing it than if the film was released in theaters without all the hubbub.

3. Recover damaged PR for Sony
If Sony chooses to release the film digitally, that generous act would help restore some of the significantly negative PR the company has received as a result of this mess. Sony burned a lot of bridges in Hollywood – and with the public as a whole – as a result of the released documents, so the release of the film on digital platforms would be one step in the right direction for the entertainment giant.

Whatever Sony decides to do, one thing is certain, Sony has a high mountain to climb if they want to recover from this PR disaster. At this point, they are in disaster recovery mode, so every possibility they have to gain back some of their lost goodwill is an opportunity they should pursue.

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