Sony Pictures is blocking reviews of “Aloha” until just a few hours before moviegoers can see it Thursday. But one’s already in, from the studio’s recently departed chairman. She called it “ridiculous.”
Amy Pascal, forced out after a cyberattack on Sony computers revealed racist jokes she made in e-mails about President Barack Obama’s taste in films, wrote colleagues in November that the Cameron Crowe feature “makes no sense” and “never, not even once, ever works.”
That could explain the muted marketing campaign for “Aloha,” starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, and the lack of glitzy red-carpet premieres. Phil Contrino, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, said the signature evidence of Sony’s desire to curb exposure to any it’s-a-bomb fallout is the restriction on when reviews can be posted. Critics always agree to limits, but they’re usually lifted days before a movie opens.
“To embargo reviews to the night before the film is not usually a good sign,” he said. “If the studio has confidence in a film, they will be happy to have critics comment on it.”
“Aloha” — about a defense contractor in Hawaii who falls for an Air Force pilot — cost almost $40 million to make. It opens in wide release Friday and is expected to collect $14 million over the weekend and $30 million to $35 million during its theatrical run in the U.S. and Canada, according to Boxoffice.com. That ticket revenue is split with exhibitors.
Possibly more distressing for Sony than having a dud is that “every time a film comes out that was in the e-mails, that will mean people will talk about the hack again,” said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.
The leaks from the 2014 cyberattack that the FBI linked to North Korea — which may have been insulted by the Sony comedy “The Interview” that depicted the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un — offered rare insight into the workings of a Hollywood studio and exposed often embarrassing exchanges between Pascal and others.
She left the studio in February, after 12 years as its head, and is now an independent producer on the Sony lot. Simon Halls, a spokesman for Pascal, declined to comment. Crowe also declined to comment.
Tom Rothman, Pascal’s successor, said the studio is “very proud of the film” and called Crowe “one of the great writer-directors of our generation and a master of the smart romantic comedy, which seems to be a lost genre these days. ‘Aloha’ is rich in his signature humanism.”
Probably best known for 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” Crowe wrote and directed “Aloha” and produced it with Scott Rudin. At a media screening in Los Angeles Tuesday, Crowe made a brief appearance on stage, drawing laughs when he said he realized some private conversations about the movie had become public. He called it a “love letter to Hawaii.”
It had briefly been considered for release in December, the month the hacked e-mails were made public. After Pascal’s harsh internal critique of the film was dispatched, some scenes were reshot, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Sony touted “Aloha” with theatrical trailers and billboards. The studio spent almost $20 million on marketing, according to the person. Publicity was limited because Cooper’s in London in the play “The Elephant Man” and Stone has been in France promoting a Woody Allen film, the person said.
The studio wanted to distance Crowe from another round of headlines about the hacked e-emails, according to the person, who said that was a reason Sony put the late embargo on reviews.
The next hack-exposed movie once in Sony’s lineup is about Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, based on the biography by Walter Isaacson. Sony decided to back out of it last year after cost projections escalated and Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale passed on playing Jobs.
That led to heated exchanges between Pascal and Rudin, according to documents released by the hackers, who called themselves Guardians of Peace.
At one point, Rudin tried to hire director David Fincher for the Jobs film, which put him at odds with Angelina Jolie and her aim to make a new Cleopatra movie with Fincher, the e-mails show. Rudin dismissed the Jolie project as an “ego bath” and called her “a minimally talented spoiled brat.”
Universal Pictures acquired the Jobs movie, with a script co-written by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin. Before the film left Sony, he and Pascal discussed candidates for the lead, and he rebelled when she suggested Michael Fassbender, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as a plantation owner in “12 Years a Slave” in 2013.
“I don’t know who Michael Fassbender is and the rest of the world isn’t going to care,” Sorkin wrote in an e-mail released by the hackers.