Sony looking for ways to distribute 'The Interview' online

Theater owners were concerned about terror threats

Sony Pictures says it hasn't bowed to threats to pull "The Interview" and audiences will get a chance to see it -- it's just not sure how at present.

In the face of threats from hackers, Sony said last week said it was canceling theatrical release of the satirical movie about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, scheduled for December 25, and "has no further plans" to release on DVD or video-on-demand platforms.

On Friday, President Obama publically called that decision a mistake and now both parties appear to be back-pedaling a little.

"Remember, Sony only delayed this," David Boies, the company's lead attorney, said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press." "Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it's going to be distributed, I don't think anybody knows quite yet. But it's going to be distributed."

Boise echoed remarks made by Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton on Friday that Sony pulled the movie because of resistance from movie theaters and video-on-demand (VOD) operators -- not because the company was acquiescing to threats against it.

"You can't release a movie unless you have a distribution channel," said Boies. "The theaters were subject to threats of physical violence against the theaters and against their customers. And quite understandably, a large number of them, a majority of them, decided not to show the picture when it was scheduled. When that happened, Sony really had no alternative."

On Friday, Lynton was asked on CNN why the movie studio didn't release it on a VOD platform.

"There has not been one major VOD, video on demand, distributor or one major e-commerce site that stepped up and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us," he said. "Again, we don't have that direct interface with the American public, so we need to go through an intermediary to do that."

A spokesman for Sony Pictures said on Sunday that the company it is "considering options as far as distribution of the film."

At a televised news conference on Friday, shortly after the FBI blamed North Korea for the hack, President Obama criticized Sony for bowing to threats and the result that would have on freedom of speech. He underlined those words in an interview broadcast on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley."

"We believe in free speech. We believe in the right of artistic expression and satire and things that powers that be might not like. And if we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt, through cyber, you know, a company's distribution chain or its products, and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem," he said.

But Obama appeared to soften his critique of how Sony handled the problem.

"The key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor. It's making a broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyber-attacks. We have to do a lot more to guard against them."

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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