Sony should've talked to Obama? Imagine how that would've gone down

How would that phone call between Obama and Sony execs have started? With an apology?

So President Obama believes Sony did the wrong thing when it canceled plans to release “The Interview” in theaters — or on other platforms, for that matter — and essentially disappeared the movie. I thought Sony did the only thing it could do, given the fact that some theaters were refusing to show it and hackers were conveying threats to attack any theaters that did.  However, Obama made a pretty compelling case at his year-end news conference that the studio should have ignored the threats, noting that this was just a goofy comedy (my words, not his).  What if it were a serious documentary that North Korea or some other entity had objected to?

But then Obama said about Sony: “I wish they had spoken to me first.”


Well, first off, I realize that Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Michael Lynton and Co-Chairman Amy Pascal are powerful people, but could they really have gotten the president on the phone ASAP as they dealt with other studio chiefs and theater owners and scrambled to make a quick decision about the movie release?

5:33 p.m.: An earlier version of this article identified Michael Lynton as a co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment. He is the company's chairman.

OK, so let’s say they can get him on the phone. How does that conversation go?  Does Pascal start by apologizing for her hacked email exchange with producer Scott Rudin joking about Obama's taste in movies? Something like: “Thanks for talking to us, Mr. President, about these threats of violence.  But let me start by saying I am so sorry about the whole 'Django Unchained' thing. Scott and I were really just messing around when we were ticking off all those black movies that I should ask you about. I mean — I know you probably didn’t like them.  Or even see them.  Well, '12 Years a Slave' — I’m sure you loved that. Anyway — totally my bad. It will never happen again.”

So, she gets that far.  And when Obama says, unhesitatingly, that they should not pull “The Interview," that they should — as he said at his news conference — “not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks,” then what does she say?

Pascal: “OK. We hear you. We should call some terrorists’ bluff who may or may not blow up theaters that may or may not have people in them, depending on how scared moviegoers are.  Hey — you’re not, by any chance, mad about the emails, are you? ... Of course not. I didn’t think so.”

The phone call probably wouldn’t have gone down quite this way. But whether Sony executives conferred with Obama or not, they still would have been left in an extraordinarily difficult place with few really good options. And whatever happened, Sony would have been responsible for dealing with the consequences.

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