The Interview: The Most Successful Invisible Promo Campaign Ever
The Interview: The Most Successful Invisible Promo Campaign Ever

There’s no denying Sony Pictures has been under enormous pressure over the release or not of “The Interview,” its controversial farce about an assassination plot against North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Sony may have taken a stand against terrorist threats by allowing theaters to decide if they want to run it, but it’s remarkable how invisible the film’s official presence is online.

Not that it needs any great promotion given the unprecedented level of free publicity, but it still feels a bit odd.

On Sony Pictures website, “The Interview” just doesn’t have a presence. It lists all playing and upcoming films, but no sign of “The Interview” on the movies page or via search.

Screenshot of Sony Pictures website showing currently playing and upcoming films, on Dec. 23, 2014. "The Interview" is not listed. (Epoch Times)
Screenshot of Sony Pictures website showing currently playing and upcoming films, on Dec. 23, 2014. “The Interview” is not listed. (Epoch Times)

On Rotten Tomatoes, the link to the film’s official site is a Tumblr page that’s eerily empty. Just a blank screen with an “Enter password” field. Rotten Tomatoes critics, incidentally, only give the film 52 percent and the site’s top critics go as low as 25 percent; 96 percent of movie-goers, on the other hand, want to see it. See, that’s some great publicity for a mediocre film.

Screenshot of the official Tumblr page for Sony's controversial film, "The Interview," on Dec. 23, 2014. Normally the page would be available without a password. (Epoch Times)
Screenshot of the official Tumblr page for Sony’s controversial film, “The Interview,” on Dec. 23, 2014. Normally the page would be available without a password. (Epoch Times)

Until early Wednesday morning, when I tried to go to the film’s official Facebook page I repeatedly got a Server Error (500). It’s working now.

Screenshot of the official Facebook page for Sony's controversial film, "The Interview," on Dec. 23, 2014. (Epoch Times)
Screenshot of the official Facebook page for Sony’s controversial film, “The Interview,” on Dec. 23, 2014. (Epoch Times)

And it seems the film’s Twitter account only just came online. The account was created in December 2014, and it says there are 47 tweets, but somehow I can only see the one sent at on Dec. 23 saying, “Freedom of speech has prevailed!”

 

 

Screenshot of the official Twitter account of Sony Picture's controversial film, "The Interview," on Dec. 23, 2014.
Screenshot of the official Twitter account of Sony Picture’s controversial film, “The Interview,” on Dec. 23, 2014. (Epoch Times)

 

Sony’s Caution IS Understandable

Not that Sony’s extreme caution is hard to understand given how surreal the whole ordeal has been.

After pulling the film from theaters earlier, on Tuesday, the eve of Christmas eve, Sony announced “The Interview” would be released in self-selected theaters as scheduled on Christmas Day. It would also release the film into on VOD.

It’s being claimed as a victory with Sony Entertainment Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton, saying in a statement: “We have never given up on releasing The Interview and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day.”

The surreal drama began just before Thanksgiving, on November 24, when Sony employees opened their computers to find an ultra-creepy skeleton warning, “this is just the beginning” and “we’ve obtained all your internal data” and “top secrets” will be released if Sony doesn’t “obey” demands. The demands weren’t specified, however. The page was signed by #GOP, later learned to be a group calling itself “Guardians of Peace,” although I’m sure more than a few Democrat Sonyites must have cursed the Republicans.

Screenshot of what Sony employees saw on their computers Nov. 24, 2014.
Screenshot of what Sony employees saw on their computers Nov. 24, 2014.

Some 100 terabytes of data were stolen—which is an awful lot, about 10 times the amount of data contained in the entire printed collection of the U. S. Library of Congress. Pretty much everything was stolen by the hackers ranging from unreleased scripts, to employee payroll data and confidential medical information, to user names and passwords of Sony executives. That’s enough to make any company flinch.

A few days later, some folks began to suspect North Korea was behind the skeleton after five soon-to-be released films were let loose on internet file-sharing hubs—conspicuously absent from the list was “The Interview.”

As stolen emails and salary records started to be leaked, and the FBI began its investigation, the hackers kept sending poorly written messages upping the ante.

On December 5, GOP threatened employee families if Sony didn’t comply. In a message posted on GitHub on December 8, the hackers threatened war: “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!”

While North Korea has denied any involvement in all this since the start, they did praise the act as a “righteous deed.”

The FBI and President Obama are confident North Korea was behind it.

On Dec. 19, he told reporters Sony “made a mistake” by pulling “The Interview” and that the United States “will respond proportionally” to the cyber attack.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” the President said.

Two days later, North Korea countered the warning of counterattack by threatening to attack the White House, Pentagon, and the rest of the United States:
“Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’ declared by Obama,” read part of a lengthy Policy Department of the National Defence Commission statement.

Now the U.S. State Department is calling on North Korea to admit what it did and even compensate Sony for the damages. It’s not clear if that’s even legally possible, but anyway, that’s what state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf put on the table.

In the meantime, North Korea suffered a couple of statewide internet outages (such that they have internet there) and blames the United States. Nothing’s been admitted but from all accounts of the tightly controlled net in North Korea, it shutting down is no big deal. It seems to me that if the United States really wanted to hurt North Korea where it counts, they should open up the internet rather than of shut it down.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Epoch Times.

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