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Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton has given his first television interview to discuss the damaging cyberattack on the studio.
“I think actually the unfortunate part is in this instance, the president, the press and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton said in excerpts of the interview that aired on CNN on Friday. “We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters. So, to sort of rehearse for a moment the sequence of events, we experienced the worst cyberattack in American history and persevered for three and a half weeks under enormous stress and enormous difficulty.”
“The movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short time. We were very surprised by it,” Lynton stated. “They announced that they would not carry the movie. At that point in time, we had no alternative to not proceed with a theatrical release on the 25th of December. …We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered.”
The conversation with the Sony exec was conducted by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who asked Lynton what the other options were for releasing the film.
“There are a number of options open to us, and we have considered those and are considering them,” Lynton said, according to an early transcript. “As it stands right now, while there have been a number of suggestions that we go out there and deliver this movie digitally or through VOD, 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.”
Earlier in the day, President Obama criticized the studio during a press conference. “Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake,” Obama said.
The president also added that he hoped the studo would’ve “spoken to me first. I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you are intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”.
Lynton told CNN that he had spoken with White House advisors.
“We definitely spoke to a senior advisors or a senior advisor in the White House to discuss the situation,” Lynton said, adding that although he didn’t directly talk to Obama himself, “the White House was certainly aware of the situation.”
More than 12,000 emails from Lynton’s inbox were leaked after hackers, linked to North Korea, conducted the cyberattack against Sony.
The studio subsequently canceled release plans for the North Korea assassination-themed comedy The Interview after theaters decided against showing the film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.
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