Sony Releases The Interview Amidst Muddled Messaging

Sony Pictures announced yesterday that it has decided to release The Interview after all, reversing a decision it made the previous week in the wake of threats of violence by the group responsible for this month’s devastating hack.

Image: Sony Pictures
Image: Sony Pictures

The on-again-off-again-on-again plan calls for a limited release in some 200 theaters along with a video-on-demand (VOD) push, both of which begin Christmas Day, which was the film’s original release date. Major theater chains have chosen to opt out of the release for a number of reasons—the shortened distribution and promotion window, the competition that will come from a simultaneous VOD release, and continued concerns over violence.

It is difficult to know whether the $44 million film will ever recoup its costs, but Sony is hoping that at the very least the release will demonstrate that the company will not censor its content in the wake of threats or intimidation. The studio came to its decision after a number of Hollywood A-listers chastised the company for buckling to the hackers.

The Sony hack will certainly change the way we look at data security and how we handle leaked content. It also provides a lesson in how a brand that becomes a victim of such an attack should conduct its messaging.

Sony didn’t do itself any favors with its mixed messages about releasing, shelving, then releasing “The Interview.” Instead, the company gave the impression that it was following the whims of the hackers, then other entertainment industry luminaries, rather than developing its own strategy.

The final decision to release the film is the right one, and in time how Sony came to that decision may be lost in the details. For right now, though, it appears that the company came to this point by mere chance. And chance is not something a brand ever wants guiding its messaging.

Follow Richard Brownell on Twitter: @RickBrownell