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Obama Says Sony Made Mistake Pulling 'The Interview'; Studio Blames Theaters

19 Dec, 2014 By: John Latchem, Stephanie Prange

President Barack Obama in a press conference Dec. 19 said Sony Pictures made a mistake in pulling The Interview from theaters after hackers threatened the studio.

"Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were some threats against employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake," the president said.

“I wish they had spoken to me first,” he added.

Sony canceled the film’s release after several theater chains decided not to show it after cyber terrorists, which U.S. officials have indicated are backed by North Korea, threatened a 9/11-type attack.

The President said he was concerned about censorship spawned by foreign interests, saying that self-censorship is especially troubling. While The Interview is a satire, he said the development is even more potentially troubling for documentaries or news broadcasts.

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

The home entertainment future of The Interview is up in the air as hackers threatened the studio if it released the Seth Rogan-James Franco film on disc. The cyber terrorists late Dec. 18 in an email warned Sony Pictures: “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”

Responding to President Obama's comments, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN that Sony didn't have many choices when it came to pulling the film and made every effort to release it.

“We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered, and we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie,” Lynton said. “In this instance, the president, the press, and the public are mistaken on what actually happened. We do not own movie theaters, we can not determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.”

In a statement to TheWrap.com, Sony reiterated its support of freedom of speech and blamed canceling the film's release on the theaters that refused to show the film.

"For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees’ personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released. Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion," the statement reads. "The decision not to move forward with the Dec. 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision … we had no choice."

Further, the Sony statement makes it clear the only decision made so far is to pull the film from a Christmas Day debut in theaters: "After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."

But finding alternate distribution has been problematic, Lynton told CNN. "There has not been one major VOD or one major e-commerce site that has says they are willing to step forward and distribute this movie," he said.

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