Sony’s darkest days may not be behind them yet. Last month, hacker group Guardians of Peace attacked the company and leaked terabytes of sensitive information along with high-quality copies of major titles, including Brad Pitt starrer Fury, then-unreleased family flick Annie and biopic Mr. Turner. When Sony finally caved in and canceled the December 25th premiere of controversial comedy The Interview (widely perceived as the reason for the hack), many assumed that the studio was out of the woods. However, there’s reason to believe that the worst may be yet to come.
Guardians of Peace has made the sinister promise that it will be releasing a series of “Christmas gifts,” leaking stolen information online. The first of those came when private emails from Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton arrived on the web, including plenty of embarrassing comments about various projects and actors. What’s next? Well, the currently-released files add up to a little over 200 gigabytes of the reportedly 100 terabytes stolen, or 0.2%, of the information that the hackers claim to have stolen.
Thinking worst-case scenarios, aside from animated titles Hotel Transylvania 2 and Sausage Party, most of Sony’s 2015 films are at such a place in post-production where editing, color correction and CGI are all that’s left to be completed. Given Sony’s size, it makes sense that multiple nearly-finished cuts of films would be passed virtually between execs and producers so as to provide notes. Unfortunately, that also means that the hackers may have gained access to those rough cuts.
If Guardians of Peace still wants to hurt Sony, leaking the upcoming films is a surefire way to do so. The company would be put in the unenviable position of marketing titles to audiences that have had access to them for months beforehand. Its losses would be catastrophic, possibly measuring billions depending on which titles hit the web. We’ve seen pirated titles like X-Men Origins: Wolverine do well in theaters, but we’ve also seen others like The Expendables 3 disappoint, in large part as a result of that piracy.
There is a small silver lining – the cuts of Fury, Annie, Mr. Turner and Still Alice leaked online appeared to have been prepared for awards consideration – e.g. not taken directly from Sony’s vaults. Maybe that means the hackers never gained the type of access that would have been required to steal unfinished cuts of upcoming titles.
Still, the very possibility is terrifying. Take a look after the page break at Sony’s upcoming slate, which includes both movies produced and distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. If a leak happens, any or all of (or even more than) these films could be splashed online.