The Sony Decision – The Right Decision

Posted by Tom Locke on December 26th, 2014 filed in Business, General, History, Life

In a previous career, my brother, Allan, was the theatre manager in Toronto for the Fine Arts/Capitol at Yonge & Eglinton, the Revue on Roncesvalles, the New Yorker at Yonge & Isabelle (and its later incarnate, The Cineplex Odeon Showcase), the Carlton 10, the Scarborough Town Centre, the Eaton Centre and the International Cinema. He probably met a million Torontonians during those nine years.

His psych-up for the day during that period was “It’s Showtime.”

It takes a lot of people to operate a theatre and put on a show. The movie theatre is called ‘a house’ – when the doors open, the house is open and the theatre ticket buyer is the guest of the house. The staff, who process your admission, lead you to your seat and the team who create the show treats and unreel the show, are part of your theatrical experience.

In those days, they had codes in the case of emergencies. Primarily evacuation codes, robbery codes, etc. My brother hired some of the biggest, smartest ushers and cashiers for the everyday challenges. Most of them were just kids, working their first ever jobs.

Logically, as the manager, he would not place these kids’ lives at risk, nor those of the seven or eight thousand people who might visit his theatre to see the latest Disney picture, or Warners, Fox, Paramount, E1, Universal, or Paramount picture. This was in the back of his mind most days.

We are all familiar with the lyrics to those great Broadway tunes; . “The Show Must Go On/ There is No Business Like Show Business”. However my brother firmly believes that the wisest choice was to close down the release of ‘The Interview’ (A Pseudo-Fictional (WITHOUT THE NAMES/IMAGES CHANGED) account of an assassination of a living leader of a recognized International State).

My brother goes on to say:

“The Sony State had to walk away from their North Korea attack movie. And the Exhibitors, to avoid an extraordinary risk due to the related risk to their distribution partners, wisely pulled the picture.

The MPAA immediately approved the decision, and the Administration released a statement which contradicted its own priority to protect every American life, and essentially put every exhibitor, theatre manager and their staff at risk.

It is not unusual for distribution/exhibition for theatrical release to disagree on a course of action. In fact arguments have occurred every Monday for up to 53 theatrical weeks a year for the last 100 years. December 15th was an exception. And having the White House involved is quite unusual.

Regrettably, the White House wades in on an industry with extremely poor understanding. As this is a such a small business, they do not understand the excitement when the theatre manager unlocks the doors, “It’s Showtime!”.

I do not want to have a group of SWAT team members brandishing machine guns and other assorted weaponry at my theatre doorway lined with little kids, fathers and mothers. I know that every theatre manager anywhere in the world who would want to prevent such fear.

At any given time there are 14,000 – 20,000 theatre managers in North America doing their thing. It’s a special gift to protect without notice, entertain without taking credit and clean-up without complaint.

Theatre owners made a very special and unique decision to protect their employees, their managers, their teams and their guests. And the theatre-going experience. Owners should be lauded, and not embarrassed for acting to protect us.”

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