A Few Questions for “The Interview”

OK, I’m tossing this theory out there. Believe me, I know it’s a long shot and pretty unlikely. But when I think of the myriad of other things that have happened over the years that were scams or just unbelievable things that individuals/companies have done, this one looks like one of the more mild ones. So here goes …

What if the whole thing with “The Interview” was a planned publicity stunt?interview_tout_large

Grab some cookies and milk. This is gonna take a while.

You have a movie that, by normal standards, was getting OK reviews in advance of its Christmas Day opening and the whole debacle with the North Koreans. And even after it’s showing online and at some 300 theaters across the U.S., it’s still pretty mixed.

“The Interview” cost $44 million to make, which is roughly equivalent to what it’s competition – “Unbroken” ($15.59 million), “Into The Woods” ($15.08 million) and the two-week old “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies” (#13.14 million) – made in a DAY. Toss in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” ($7.35 million) and “The Gambler” ($5 million) and there wasn’t going to be much of a box office left for Seth Rogen and James Franco to get a piece of. And with at least the top four movies in that list with significant staying power, “The Interview” was just never going to make a ton of money any time soon.

So, we have a so-so movie scheduled to open on a very powerful weekend. Not a good mix from the get go.

Then we have Franco and Rogen. Neither are Hollywood elites and generally make second-tier movies that make some money, but not a bunch. And neither is anything like the traditional stars we all know and love. Rogen is generally considered a bit of a loose cannon, and there always seems to be an inference that he is “on something.” Franco is a multi-talented guy who is always trying something new, and who loves a good joke.

And so here we are: Sony pushing a marginal flick with a pair of stars who just might go along with a gag like this if would help the film make money.

Yeah, I know. It seems too farfetched, too insane and just flat out crazy.

But let’s assume for a moment that a meeting was held in some shadowy back office at Sony one night with just a handful of players involved. What might the reasoning have been to try and pull the wool over the world’s eyes?

I can’t have that? Gimme 12 of ’em!

Let’s start with the outrage. I mean, aside from Denis Rodman, who really has a whole lot good to say about North Korea to begin with? We already know that Kim Jong-un is certifiable, recently proclaiming that no children born in his country may share his name and that those who already do must change it. He has made it clear he has no love for America, but has little armament to do much about it, and so he becomes the perfect patsy.

But think about Jong-un’s ego for just a second. If he and North Korea really had been able to hack Sony’s system, doesn’t he seem like the kind of guy who would brag about it endlessly? Much like the Klingon empire, he rules by showing his superiority over another nation to his people. It seems to me that he would have much to gain by claiming this accomplishment as his own and playing the heck out of it in front of his population, not to mention the world.

So with a hated rival apparently stopping the release of this movie, American’s felt outrage. “How dare you tell us what we can and cannot watch! Why, we’ll go see this now even if we weren’t going to before!” A Dec. 22 story on Wired.com stated that the ratings people are giving the film (mostly people who haven’t seen it) are summed up in this way, “By giving The Interview glowing reviews, the thinking goes, those making the threat will hear loud and clear that the people support this movie and will not buckle to terrorists.”

Yeah, there we go. Invoke a little 911 terrorist backlash sentiment and we get a few more people to show up for a film that they might never have seen, much less rented.

Read All About It!

Interview Bad-Press-PublicityThere is no such thing as bad publicity (Succès de scandale), or so they saying goes. As stated previously, the reviews for “The Interview” were mixed. And like any good American company, Sony can’t afford to have one of its products sit around forever attempting to recoup its original $44 million cost. They are about making money, not breaking even.

So the reasoning might have been that if “The Interview” was going to be a financial stinker anyways, why not take a shot and see if it can do something that no other movie has – debut successfully online.

Assuming the hack was faked, Sony’s stunt did cause a bunch of regular theaters to jump ship at the first sign of terrorist threats. Threats, mind you, that the Department of Homeland Security could never verify. According to Slashfilm.com, “… the Department of Homeland Security says there’s no credible info to indicate an actual threat. (to theaters)”

So with most theaters out of the loop, Sony stands to make more money from the film by not having to split it them.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.

Movies are costing more and more for the public to see, and that’s an issue for … well … the public. Sony may have come up with an idea years ago and “The Interview” may have provided the perfect testing ground for it.

Sony is big into electronics. Duh! And while they do great at movies, they do immensely better in what they’ve been doing for years – electronics. So why not try and corner the market by providing the buying public with both?

“The Interview”, which did draw over $1 million in just 300+ theaters and that could be streamed online through limited outlets, could be Sony’s test case for releasing movies straight to services like Netflix, YouTube Movies and GooglePlay in the future. Why go through all the hassle of theaters and them taking a cut when you can go straight to the consumer? And who’s to say that Sony couldn’t just make its own home entertainment network more accessible and just release them there?

But if Sony can convince movie lovers that there’s nothing better than seeing a movie in the comfort of their own home – which they do a pretty good job of already – then they already have a foot jammed further in the door to sell them more high-end equipment to create their own home theater experience.

Yeah, it sounds crazy. Crazy like a fox.

Does the jury have a verdict?

So one argument I hear over and over are the lawsuits that are being filed against Sony for not protecting the personal information of its workers in the hack by the Guardians of Peace (GOP). OK, maybe so. Can someone provide me a list of Sony Workers so we can we verify that they are, in fact, actually employed at Sony? Or even exist at all.

Look, I know it’s a reach. But if this is playing out like some bizarre Hollywood script – about as crazy as a talk show host being asked to assassinate the leader of North Korea – then disseminating the names of a bunch of fake people and all of their fake personal data is well within the realm of possibility.

So, two hackers walk into a bar…

Want to hear something funny, try the generous message from the GOP to Sony employees about the potential release of their personal data:

“Message to SPE Staffers,” it read. “We have a plan to release emails and privacy of the Sony Pictures employees. If you don’t want your privacy to be released, tell us your name and business title to take off your data.” (NYPost.com)

Employees working in a call centerI have to be honest here, I get a little perturbed when I have to reset the password for one of the people on our church staff of 11, because it escapes me how they forget their email password and don’t just have the browser remember it. But the GOP, the guys who slithered their way through Sony’s digital security, seem more than happy to sort through almost 141,000 names to make sure that one person’s data won’t be released if they just “drop them a line.”

Try getting that kind of service from your typical bill collector or telemarketer.

What’s good for the goose…

Since the government got involved in the hack, Sony could face some pretty stern discussions with members of the House and Senate if this is all a fake. Heck, they may even get called befor a subcommittee or Homeland Security and get asked “What the hell were you thinking?”

So what’s the government going to do? Close Sony down? Fine them into oblivion?


Ford Automotive, one of the car manufacturers that got part of the $80 billion bailout in 2009, employees roughly 180,000 people. If they are too big to lose, then why would a company that essentially pulled an oversized prank get a worse punishment? The government is stupid, but not that stupid … especially with an election year looming on the horizon.

How well would it go with the younger crowd if you’re the senator who killed “Paul Blart 2”?

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.

As a result of the ‘hack’, Sony had approximately 50 scripts released for various movies. (BGR.com) Thirty of these were for films that were already released.

Interview TalladegaSo, exactly when was the last time you saw a great movie and suddenly ravaged your Google search engine looking for its script? If you have, then you seriously need to move out of your parent’s basement.

Oh, and none of the already released movies were anything of note. Unless of course your local theater group is hoping to do a stage production of “Talladega Nights” or one of the first two “Smurfs” movies.

Of the 20 that have not been released, there’s nothing earth-shattering about the titles either. “Annie” and “When the Game Stands Tall” have already opened, so now it’s an 18-32 split. Of the remaining flicks, we all know pretty much how every “Paul Blart” movie is going to go, with a few pratfalls that we may not have seen coming. But getting the scripts for stuff like “Little House on the Prairie” or “Smurfs 3” (yeah, it’s a trilogy now just like “The Matrix” and “Ironman”) is not going to break anyone’s bank.

And again, who is going to be checking these scripts word for word when these movies are released? If this is you, it’s just another reason to get out of your parent’s basement.

You’ve got mail.

So the basic crime here is that some executives had some emails published that were less than favorable reviews of some of their stars. Let’s face it, as far as this goes it’s pretty slim pickins. We all know that stars think they are end-all-be-all of the world, while execs believe the world could spin on its axis without them at the helm. Neither party likes the other and I’m fairly sure that if they started publishing the emails of various stars, none of them would be too flattering about the execs either.

Toss in what films cost, discussions on luncheons and tennis matches and the budget for the Motion Picture Association of America and you have the equivalent of most folk’s spam folders.

This one’s a wash at best.

Push *#62##7*3 For Customer Support

Interview FBI The Feds were able to trace the cyber attack, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers stating that he was “fairly confident” that North Korea was involved. (Deadline.com) But today (Dec. 27) FoxNews.com released a story where critics have a number of more likely theories on who hacked Sony, on e of which was a Sony employee.

And North Korea’s infrastructure is looking less and less likely to be the source of the hack. It has just over 1,000 IP addresses, one ISP (Star Joint Venture Co. and is used almost solely by the government. Sounds like Kim Jong-un and his crew barely have enough power to run a Roomba, much less try and hack Sony.

That’s a wrap everybody!

In the end, I’m finding a lot more reasons to believe that this whole thing is a giant publicity stunt than one would think. Yes, it would take incredible daring and gall to pull off, but if it is and if they did do it, the rewards could be almost unimaginable.

Almost as much as two bungling TV personalities actually killing the dictator of a third-world country.

Sources: Forbes.com, USMagazine.com, Wired.com, Wikipedia.com, NYPost.com, BGR.com, Nola.com and others listed in story.


About Tim Allen

I am a former newspaper writer/editor/page designer that still loves to write and share my experience and views. I presently own a digital marketing firm and live in a small town in Big Sky country.

Posted on December 27, 2014, in Business / Finance, News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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