Unexpected support from the highest quarters of the US White House and some reconciliatory gestures from North Korea to join the probe into hacking of Sony has emboldened the entertainment giant to reconsider releasing “The Interview”, a satirical film on North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un.
It said in a statement, “It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.” But the film may not be released under Sony banner, instead the company is reportedly exploring the possibility of selling the screening rights to a willing third party to stem future threats from the Korean hackers.
The shocking cyber-attack on Sony Pictures stealing 38 million files on Nov. 24 and distributing them on file-sharing websites has embarrassed the film makers of Hollywood, whose parent company is in Japan, neighbouring North Korea.
While the cancellation was forced upon Sony, which feared threats not merely in the US but also in Japan, where the North Korean presence is vividly high and most of it related to the underworld Yakuza.
But the cancellation of the film has upset many US leaders and celebrities who vouch for freedom of expression that the Hollywood has always upheld.
To begin with US President Barack Obama said at his news conference on Friday, “I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks… Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake.”
In his response, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered… Let us be clear – the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day.”
“After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so,” the statement concluded.
While the FBI squarely blamed the North Korean hand behind the hacking of Sony, Pyongyang denied such reports and offered to join a joint probe with the US. More than Sony, North Korea would be happy to engage with the US authorities as the sanctions have made it a pariah already in global politics.
However, the film will not be released on Christmas Day as planned but once the handover to a third party comes through, the film may see light of the day with an assured audience now amid endorsement from none other than the US president himself. Some hackers have also acknowledged the brouhaha around the film and said a humiliated Sony can now go ahead with the release.
Meanwhile, some help came in the form an open offer from BitTorrent, a file-sharing technology company, to release the film via its paid subscription and distribution service called BitTorrent Bundle.
“BitTorrent Bundle is in fact the very best way for Sony to take back control of their film, to not acquiesce to terrorists threats, and to ensure a wide audience can view the film safely,” the company said in a statement. “It would also strike a strong note for free speech.”
Sony has apparently mellowed down on unprecedented help from all corners and is in a mood to back-track on its cancellation of the release in theaters.