You Can Watch The Interview — Now What?
The Christmas Day release of Columbia/Sony Entertainment’s comedy The Interview in shows playing at over 300 sold-out theaters has demonstrated American consumers — of movies or politics — are smarter, and have more character, than comedian Bill Maher, economist Jonathan Gruber, or the major American movie theater chain’s executives believe.
In originally permitting the major theater chains contracted to show Sony’s comedy The Interview to cancel their contracts, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton acted not as the head of a movie studio promising stockholders to maximize box-office receipts for his entertainment division but instead acted as an agent of a nanny state determined to protect adults from any possible risks about what they consume.
It may not even be Lynton’s fault.
No doubt the CEO of a company owned by the even more anal-retentive Japanese Mitsui keiretsu was surrounded by corporate executives and lawyers haranguing him about legal liability for a “foreseeable” terrorist attack, making the theaters and studio more civilly liable than Warner Bros. and Cinemark theaters were held to be for James Holmes’ unannounced 2012 attack on theater patrons seeing The Dark Knight in Aurora, Colorado.
In a country where jumbo soda pops traditionally sold in theater lobbies were attempted to be prohibited for sale in New York City; where a health warning on every pack of cigarettes sold for decades was not enough for tobacco companies not to have to recompense unhealthy smokers who decided to ignore the warnings; where a Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration deny adults the right to decide for themselves what substances will make life more tolerable for them, it’s not surprising that a threat from Internet trolls to attack theaters showing The Interview was enough to intimidate Sony into writing off tens of megabucks they’d already spent producing and ramping up distribution for a comedy they hoped would be a box-office bonanza.
But Sony reversed course, under criticism from such Hollywood insiders as George Clooney, President Barack Obama, and — amazingly enough — myself, being interviewed on Russia Today.
The Interview was not the first movie offensive to someone with a megaphone or a fondness for mayhem and it won’t be the last. It shouldn’t take the wagging finger of Your Hardly Humble Correspondent — much less Obama or Clooney — to convince a corporation not to back off due to threats from bullies such as Internet hackers or their own legal team.
The next “Putin’s Punishers” who threaten terrorism because of the pending theatrical release of Pussy Riot 2: Mayhem in Moscow can be ignored by the simple expedient of treating movie-goers as adults. After the MPAA rating card in the endless trailers before you can see the movie you bought the ticket to watch just put the Terrorist Rating: