“THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY!”

Often attributed to Phineas T Barnum 19th Century Circus Owner

 

There are a few lucky/unlucky? folks who have seen “The Interview” and most have said that it is simply a lampooning comedy. One viewer claimed that it “plays well to current events and was enjoyable to watch”. Not many doubt that James Franco and Seth Rogen are a dynamic duo whose “comradery” made the flick tick. As we now know, the plot is to have North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un killed. North Korea’s leader is portrayed in the movie as “a lovable party guy who has daddy issues”.

Since it is a fictional comedy, some scenes have NO TRUTH, whatsoever. While the end-goal of the film is the controversial killing of Kim Jong-un (whose head explodes), it was by no means an end-goal of any real world plot. It is a joke! An interesting note about the head explosion scene is that Sony asked Seth Rogen to tone it down. Sony said that it did not want a “melting face” and it didn’t want the audience to see him die. Rogen responded making the scene less gory. Nonetheless, North Korea angered by the very idea of such a movie hacked into Sony revealing much personal data. It also threatened theaters that showed The Interview

While the US govt said there were NO credible threats of terrorism the New York premier was canceled. Many national theater chains said that they would not show the film and that cancelled cinema showings entirely. Sony distanced itself from the movie as much as possible even removing its name from the credits. Stars Franco & Rogen canceled their promo gigs. Even with these formal promo appearances canceled, the promotion has been NON-STOP! The threat of terror has increased its coverage as a news story with the constant drumbeat of THE story. Not only has every major news source in existence reported this bizarre story, but terrorist threats were serious enough for President Obama to specifically address it in his weekly world press conference (speaking of Sony, North Korea, and the US in intimate terms.)

Sony Pictures Entertainment spent $44 million producing the film and another $30M/36M on promotion. Most of the billboards, posters, TV ads were already in place by the time the movie started being criticized by N Korea. Fortunately for Sony, some of their costs could be countered by insurance policies if N Korea is confirmed as the cyber-attacker with real threats of violence. Media research analyst Tom Adams claimed “In a way it’s the perfect premium Video on Demand b/c of its huge visibility and the fact that people now really want to see it. Adams also noted that as a premium Video on Demand (w/o a real theatrical run) it would be almost impossible to make its money back.” Sony wants to release the movie away from mainstream theaters that it can recoup some of its losses. On the bright side, there is an opportunity to “sell” this flick as a patriotic duty for viewers to stand against terrorism and despotism. While it may not be able to cover all of its losses, it could reduce its lost revenue by releasing it, limitedly.

The reality is that this whole North Korean-hacking Sony-Obama scenario has energized the viewing public. PEOPLE WANT TO SEE THIS FLICK! People are buzzing about it. The actual content of the movie is no longer important. It has become an EVENT, itself. The potential market for this movie that could easily be of blockbuster proportions, domestically and may be even bigger in the foreign markets if released, widely. Considering the last 2 comedies Rogen and Franco starred, they grossed a combined $189M (This is the End and Pineapple Express) Given these data, there is every reason to expect that if The Interview eventually is released widely that it will explode and make its projected box of $90M look like a sandbox. The most compelling data to this claim is that its’ “Want to See” % is a whopping 94% (see T-1) which is higher than any of the holiday blockbusters listed including such holiday box office sensations as Interstellar and Penguins of Madagascar, which are both rated at 73% by Rotten Tomatoes.

    TIMELINE OF EVENTS REGARDING THE INTERVIEW

  • Nov 22– The computer systems of Sony were hacked which exposed script details, salary data and personal emails with private details about the stars or filmmakers.
  • Dec 7– North Korea denies ties to the “hacking” but praises the deed.
  • Dec 16– Hacker group (Guardians of Peace) threatens 9/11 style attack on cinemas who plan to show the film. This lead to the cancellation of the premier of the movie in NY.
  • Dec 17– Various US cinemas conclude not to show the film, forcing Sony to cancel.
  • Dec 19– FBI concludes “hacking” origin is North Korea. President Obama states that a “proportional response” would be “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”
  • Dec 21– President Obama states hack was “was an act of cybervandalism” Not an act of war.
  • Dec 22– Sony decides they WILL release the film online, but not in cinemas.
    • North Korea reports widespread internet outages.
    • The Treehouse Theater in New York will hold a free reading of “The Interview” featuring comedians from “The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater”
  • Dec 23– Sony announces a limited release in select theaters on Christmas day.

 

 

The situation has potential to blow the movie sky high, as some, including Senator John McCain, viewed the hacks as an act of war stating “It’s a new form of warfare that we’re involved in and we need to react, and react vigorously” President Obama diffused tensions by calling the hack “cybervandalism”. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that North Korea’s internet service was disrupted shortly after the President called for a “proportional response”. We think that N. Korea, Obama, and McCain have made The Interview a $500M worldwide box office EVENT! Waaddu think?

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About bernacmd

For over 24 years, University of Detroit Mercy Marketing Professor Michael Bernacchi, Ph.D., J.D, has produced "uNDER tHE mIKE-rOSCOPE", a newsletter discussing current "marketing and advertising¹s bends, trends & ends." A well-know fixture in Detroit and national media, UDM's marketing guru has made several appearances on CNN's "Talk Back Live," the Voice of America worldwide radio network (VOA), ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and on the pages of Sports Illustrated, Time, TV Guide, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, to name a few. At University of Detroit Mercy, he has taught courses in Marketing Management, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Communications, Research and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sports and Entertainment Marketing. Michael Bernacchi can be reached at 313-993-1116 or bernacmd@udmercy.edu. Please appropriately attribute the following for their work on uNDER tHE mIKE-rOSCOPE: Yen Ju Lee Robert Rouse Vidhyasagar Natarajan Eric Baumgardner & Ian Young
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