For the first time since a destructive cyberattack crippled Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai addressed the incident, calling it “one of the most malicious cyberattacks we have known in recent history.”
But Hirai, speaking Monday night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, was not all doom and gloom.
"How many of you went to see a great Sony movie this holiday?" Hirai asked to cheers from the audience.
“'Annie' is a fantastic movie, isn't it?” he quickly joked.
The movie in question, of course, is “The Interview,” the controversial comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The movie spurred hackers to shut down Sony Pictures’ computer network, steal and release troves of internal documents and threaten any movie theater showing the film.
Sony temporarily hit pause on the film’s Christmas Day release, but eventually made it available across a number of online platforms and in roughly 580 independent movie theaters.
“I have to say freedom of speech, freedom of expression — those are important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business,” Hirai said.
The FBI has blamed North Korea for sponsoring the digital assault and recently imposed a new round of economic sanctions on Pyongyang. Some cyber experts have questioned the official narrative.
Hirai simply thanked those who have stood by Sony and watched “The Interview,” which grossed a record $15 million online in its first four days of digital release.
But with overall fallout costs from the hack expected to top $100 million for Sony's film studio, some have suggested that the Japanese-based corporation might want to sell off its movie division.
"There hasn't been synergy between the consumer electronics business and the studio," said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. "You've just got to ask, 'Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back?'"
Hirai gave no indication of such friction during Monday's talk.
“I am very proud of all employees and all the partners we’ve worked with as well who stood up against the extortionate effort of these criminals.”