The CES hordes had packed into the plush, if cramped inner sanctum of Sony's white carpeted Thunderdome. They had come to witness the triumphant return of the Walkman, sure, but there was a $5 million (at last count) question that had nothing to do with the latest tiny computer boxes. And at the very top of the company's keynote Monday at CES, CEO Kaz Hirai got right to it.
"Before we get into the actual presentation... I think I would be remiss if I didn't mention Sony Pictures and a... a great comedy movie." Wait for it... "How many of you went to see a great Sony Pictures movie this holiday season?" Wait for it... "That's right, Annie is a great movie."
LOLs all around. No word yet as to whether or not Mr. Hirai will, in fact, be here all week.
Of course, we were here to talk about The Interview, and the massive hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment that nearly derailed its release entirely. Hirai's role in the contentious development and production of the film has been documented, particularly with regard to that exploding head shot. In leaked emails between him and studio chair Amy Pascal, he came out as a more conservative voice in the debate over the film's DPRK-trolling content. But today, all jokes aside, Hirai stood behind his entertainment division.
"I'm very proud of all the employees, and certainly the partners who stood up against the extortionist efforts of criminals, and worked tirelessly, sometimes for days on end to bring you The Interview," Hirai said. "I have to say that freedom of speech, freedom of expression, are very important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business."
He went on to praise the 580 independent theaters that have chosen to run the film, and asked for a round of applause for "the people who have gone out to see the movie in the theaters or in various online venues." No applause call for the 900,000 people who opted for the torrent, but before he moved on to show off the Sony's paper-thin televisions and Iggy Azalea albums, Hirai had one last shout out:
"By the way, Annie is also a great movie as well."
There you go, SPE: your For Your Consideration pullquote, straight from the mouth of your own CEO.