It is so outrageous one would think it was a plot created in Hollywood. A communist country cyber attacks a major movie company preparing to release a movie offensive to that country. Moreover, that country threatens violence should the studio place the film into theaters. And so it is pulled from distribution. In the case of Sony Pictures’ “The Interview,” life is truly stranger than fiction.
Thankfully, in the name of freedom of speech and good, old-fashioned entrepreneurship, the show is going on with, most notably, Emagine showing the Seth Rogan/James Franco satire for free (or donation to charity) in select theaters. The move is a stroke of PR genius by Emagine CEO Paul Glantz. While touting freedom of expression Glantz’s actions also symbolically and publicly does what each of us would like to do: thumb our collective noses at North Korea while telling Sony to demonstrate a bit more backbone in the future.
And while Emagine reports it will lose between $15,000-$20,000 for the free showings, the brand equity it is building is incalculable, especially at a time when our society is growing weary of terrorist threats dictating our lives. Moreover, from an immediate economic standpoint, losses in ticket sales should be defrayed in large part by concession sales. As industry consultant Jack Oberleitner recently told Marketplace regarding the theater business: “We’re now in the popcorn business.” To be sure, concessions represent 40% of a theater’s profits with profit margins at 85%. As a comedian once joked of exorbitant candy prices, “It’s no wonder they keep their offerings in jewelry cases.”
While Sony Pictures did finally come around, inking a deal with YouTube to show “The Interview” online and on demand, their image will be tough to repair, internally and externally. And while such threats must be taken seriously, giving in to cyber bullies and terrorist states is far more dangerous.