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Why 'The Interview' won't play in Peoria -- for now

Ira Winkler | Dec. 22, 2014
As cyberattackers' demands went unmet, they made a somewhat offhand threat, saying that theaters that showed The Interview would be targeted for attack.

In the end, though, I just find it to be a sad state of affairs when an anonymous hacker, whose language patterns appear to be those of an immature and arrogant teenager with a shaky command of the English language and who is apparently located 10,000 miles away from any of the threatened targets, can have such an impact on what the U.S. public can see at its local cineplex.

If I'm wrong in that assessment and North Korea was actually behind the attack, then we're talking about something much bigger than Hollywood; we're talking about a situation that raises the possibility of a military attack by the U.S. against a foreign government.

But whether this was a script kiddie or Kim Jong Un, we are dealing with a not very credible terrorist threat. Not that you can tell that through the glare of the media hype.

Like nearly everyone on the planet, of course, I haven't seen The Interview. I did, however, see the trailer back when the movie was still expected to be released this month. The thing about comedies is that, if they are at all funny, the trailers tend to be very funny indeed. My assessment was that the movie had an intriguing comedic concept, but it didn't look all that funny. Still, the movie probably would have had some minor success. Now that it's had more publicity than Gone with the Wind, though, Sony is in possession of a hot property that it dare not release.

At least, it dare not now. I expect that Sony will shelve the movie for a while, but before this whole thing is completely forgotten, it will release it, touting it as the movie that North Korea wanted banned. I rest this prediction on the fact that all the publicity has motivated law enforcement to definitively identify the attackers and minimize any threat they may pose. Once that happens, Sony and the theater owners who are wary of showing the movie now will have less reason to fear attacks.

As for those theater owners and their role in caving in to the attackers' demand, it's important to understand the movie business model. Theaters only keep around 20% of movie ticket proceeds. The margins are slim, which is why selling popcorn remains the key to a movie house's profitability. Given those small margins, theater owners are naturally going to be reluctant to pay for extra security measures, and they're also not exactly eager to let one of their theaters become another Aurora, Colo., especially when the public is likely to paint them as callous and greedy, with indifference to their safety.


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