The New York Post is reporting that Sony is planning to release “The Interview” through Crackle, its free streaming service that users can access via PlayStation, Xbox, Roku or smart TV.
It appeared Sony had all but surrendered to hackers. Identifying themselves as the Guardians of Peace, they sent messages to the company telling it to scrap any release of the movie through legitimate channels or via unofficial leak following Sony’s announcement it was pulling the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy from theaters.
Sony left the decision of whether to screen “The Interview” to exhibitors. Carmike was the first major chain to say it would not screen the film. Major theater chains soon followed, prompting Sony to withdraw the film from its Christmas Day release altogether. Paramount went so far as to ban its theaters from screening “Team America: World Police” in its stead.
On Friday, the group sent a new threat via e-mail to executives such as co-chair Amy Pascal and chief executive Michael Lynton with new demands. CNN’s Brian Stelter obtained a copy. “It’s very wise that you have made the decision to cancel the release of The Interview,” the e-mail read. “It will be very useful for you.” The hackers promised to “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.” They characterized “additional trouble” surrounding any release of the film or further release of related media.
“Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” they wrote. Stelter read more: “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”
The mess has gotten so bad that Sony brought in Judy Smith, the crisis expert who inspired Olivia Pope’s character on “Scandal.”
In his year-end press conference Friday, President Obama said he thought Sony “made a mistake” with its decision to cancel the Sept. 25 theatrical release of “The Interview.”
“Sony’s a corporation,” said the president. “It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced,” Obama said. “Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”
He added: “I wish they had spoken to me first.”
Lynton said Friday that he did speak with “senior folks” in the White House “a few days ago.” Sony was hacked Nov. 24.
Lynton said Friday on CNN: “There has not been one major VOD — video on demand distributor — one major e-commerce site that has stepped forward and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us. Again, we don’t have that direct interface with the American public so we need to go through an intermediary to do that.”
BitTorrent, a site typically seen as a thorn in the sides of companies like Sony, offered to help Sony release film. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer sharing site, the sort distributors and film companies have come to hate because they blame them for enabling online piracy and cutting into companies’ bottom lines. BitTorrent is looking to set itself apart from piracy sites with legitimate paid content released in “bundles.”
“Bundle has a self-publishing platform that anyone from Sony can use: https://bundles.bittorrent.com/publish,” a BitTorrent spokesman told the Hollywood Reporter. “Using the paygate option, Sony are able to set the price for the film and release it widely without implicating anyone or exposing any third party to a terrorist threat.”
BitTorrent is eager to use the opportunity to recast itself as something other than a platform that enables thieves. It thinks Sony should offer a formal release rather than leaking it.
“That would only serve to encourage bad actors,” BitTorrent said. “It’s also important to make the distinction that these piracy sites are not ‘torrent sites.’ They are piracy sites that are wrongfully exploiting torrent technology.”