When Sony decided to release a comedy film about a plot to kill North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, there’s no way they could have predicted that the days leading up to the planned Christmas release would involve the FBI. Of course, we all know now that it did, due to a massive data security attack against Sony pictures. The hack involved the release of employee medical information, embarrassing emails, and eventually threats of actual violence against movie goers. As a result, the largest theater chains decided not to screen the movie and Sony scrapped the release. Many, including the President of the United States, saw this as an unfortunate blow to free speech, and Sony eventually made the picture available to independent theaters and online. The movie premiered on Christmas Eve without incident.
From a PR perspective, the whole situation made for quite a roller-coaster ride. Let’s have a look at how some of the key metrics panned out.
We can never know, of course, how much earned media the movie would have received if all had gone according to plan, but it’s a safe bet there wouldn’t have been anywhere near the 20,262 mentions that occurred during the week of December 14th. If the goal of the attackers was to suppress interest in the film, they ironically achieved the opposite result.
Total Mentions by Location
This mentions map is also interesting most notably due to the comparative disinterest of North Korea. Of course, this isn’t as surprising when one considers that North Korea’s news outlets are state run and that the vast majority of North Koreans do not have access to the internet.
In what some say is a blessing for Sony, the top articles featuring The Interview are not related to the quality of the film. They are focused on the dispute between the United States and North Korea about who was responsible for the Sony hack and the subsequent alleged attack against North Korea’s internet infrastructure that left the country largely without internet access for nearly 9 hours.
Most of the key messages are what you would expect given the situation, but a small chain of Austin movie theaters called the Alamo Drafthouse, seems to have effectively seized the moment by announcing that instead of The Interview, it would show Team America: World Police, an animated film from 2004, that depicted former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, in a light that was undoubtedly not appreciated by the North Korean government. That plan was stopped by Paramount's refusal to release Team America due to security concerns. In the end the Alamo Drafthouse was able to screen The Interview after all.
So while this certainly wasn’t what Sony had in mind, the release of this comedy caper has resulted in interesting discussions about the relationship between the United States and North Korea, the security of corporate information systems, freedom of speech, and the role of independent movie theaters. For more details, check out our interactive, custom report and analysis.