Would I have canceled The Interview? And would you?

There are some days when I dream about being a big time Hollywood Studio Movie Producer.

Yesterday was not one of them.

Like most of the world, I’ve been watching this The Interview crisis like it was an act of terrorism . . . oh wait . . . it was. And like I do with just about everything that involves a leader faced with a big decision (but especially those that affect the entertainment industry), I asked myself, ‘What would I have done?’ (It’s a great game, by the way – and this exercise helps you define your leadership style so you’re more prepared when you have to make a whopper of a call.)

That said, it’s also important to remember that quarterbacking on a Monday morning is nothing like being in a giant stadium, with 50 people on your team, 50,000 watching live and screaming your name (sometimes with nasty epithets attached), and another 5 million watching from home.

Making a decision under those circumstances ain’t nothing like making a decision after the fact, when you don’t have skin in the game.

That said, I couldn’t help but question whether I would have canceled the premier of The Interview, the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un, after threats of violence at movie theaters scheduled to show the flick.

It’s a massively complicated issue.

My first thought, “Screw ‘em. Release the movie. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. And to back down now just opens up our entire way of life, in-and-out of the entertainment world, to threats by people who disagree with how we live our lives.”

But then I couldn’t help but think . . . wait a minute. This is a movie. A silly movie. And we’re talking about lives. Innocent lives. How would I feel if people were injured or worse because of a movie that’s just supposed to make people laugh? Yes, we don’t negotiate with terrorists. But we’re dealing with mad men here. Mad men who don’t play by any rules.

And then I’d have to look at the economic impact. Sure, this crisis and the cancellation has taken a lot of money out of the economy. It has already cost people jobs. But an incident at a theater? That could cripple an industry’s economy . . . and maybe a country’s.  It could put thousands and thousands of people out of work.  And a violent act on our soil that could be attributed to another country would be an act of war . . . which would mean we’d have to respond . . . which could throw the entire globe spinning off its already unstable axis.

Is it worth that risk for a movie?

And this is when that Monday morning quarterbacking is hard to do, because the fact is we don’t know what is really going on inside the huddle. There could be a whole lot more to this story than what is on CNN.  Beyond the threat, is there something else that Sony is protecting from getting out? And if they drop the release they are protecting themselves from something else entirely?  Does the government and Sony know something about these threats that they aren’t revealing to us that could help inform this decision?

The bottom line is that we don’t know the whole story. We don’t even know half of it. So whatever your opinion on this story (or any story you read in the press), just remember that there is more to it, that might change your mind if you knew it.

But I asked a question at the top of this blog about what I’d do. And I’m not going to sidestep it.

Would I release it?

Yes. I would.

BUT, not like you think.

I’d release it in one single theater.

I’d rent the biggest theater just outside of Los Angeles. I’d have more security than an inauguration. I mean serious. My invited audience would include all the biggest free-speech stumpers in the world, including those artists like Judd Apatow, Aaron Sorkin, and Mia Farrow that have taken to Twitter to say that they support the release.

Would it be the release that I wanted as the head of Sony? Nope.

Would it be the killing of the movie like the hackers wanted? Nope.

It would be a compromise . . . even without a negotiation.

That’s what I’d do . . . which is find another solution that allows you to stand tall on the principles you believe in, and also says to future bullies, we may bend to pressure, but we’ll never break.

Now. What would you do?

 

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It’s still not easy being green on Broadway.

Last weekend, my grocery bill at a Ralphs grocery store in LA was thirty cents higher than the food costs.  Why?

I forgot to bring my reusable bags and had to “buy” three paper bags instead.

In case you didn’t know, Cali has a ban on those environmental hazards also known as plastic bags, so grocery stores can’t hand them out.  And to decrease their customer’s dependency on paper bags, the stores charge for them, encouraging their shoppers to bring canvas bags instead.

You’d think that New York City especially would be as cutting edge as California when it comes to environmental issues.  But it just isn’t.  I don’t know if that’s because since we can’t see trees or beaches from our offices that it’s the whole ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing, but for some reason, being green in the city just seems more challenging.

That’s why the hard working folks at the Broadway Green Alliance deserve a shout out.

Don’t know about the Broadway Green Alliance?  Good!  That’s why I’m doing this blog.

The BGA is a collection of industry pros dedicated to greening the theater industry coast to coast.  They developed this great website which has all sorts of resources for conserving energy, materials, etc. . . and maybe even ‘conserving’ some money in the process as well!

They also hold really cool recycling events like the one scheduled for THIS WEDNESDAY, 9/17!  From 10 AM – 2 PM, the BGA in partnership with Electronics Recyclers International will take your old computers, TVs, mobile equip and more and recycle ’em.  Just take your old e-junk to Duffy Square and hand ’em over (and I hear they just may have some cool Broadway stars on hand to help take the stuff off your hands).  You know you have some of that crap, right?  And come on, you’re never going to take the time to put it on eBay or Craigslist so give yourself some closet space and recycle it! (Click here for more info.)

And while you’re there, you should chat with green powers-that-be about signing up to be a member of the org.  I’m sure they could use some volunteers that love the theater and the environment (and hello networking opp!).

So recycle your stuff this Wednesday.  Sign up to get more info on the Broadway Green Alliance.

And then tell your City Councilperson that you support New York City’s ban on plastic bags.  They are actually considering adopting it.  And adopt it we should.  If for no other reason than we can’t lose to California.

 

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Free Advice on Raising Money from the Best Money Raiser on the Planet.

You know where the biggest stage in the world is?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not on Broadway. It’s not in the West End.

It’s in Washington, DC.

The American political system is by far the biggest and most important stage in the world. It’s where the future of the world is shaped.  And oh, the drama!

If you want to be a player in the theater of American politics you need a lot of things: charisma, education and a whole crap ton of money.

Barack Obama knew he had the ideas. He knew he had the intelligence.

And most importantly he knew he had to raise money if he wanted to get elected.

So he set out to be the best money raiser on the planet.  And he succeeded.

Did you know that more people gave to the Obama campaign in 2008 than in any other campaign in history?  And then he topped that again in 2012.

And, if you’re like me, and you study the best money raisers in the world, then you know that he’s at it again right now, in an attempt to capitalize on the recent Republican impeachment chatter.

Since the most popular question I get from readers like you is “How do I raise money for my show?” I thought you’d like this little tip that I’ve used to help hone my money raising skills.

It’s simple: sign up for Obama’s email list.

You’ll see all the different ways he asks for you to support his cause, how he frames his message, how often he asks, the tone of his asks, and so on. You’ll learn expert technique, for free.

Just don’t be surprised if he makes you want to whip out your wallet during the process.

(If you’re looking for more tips on how to raise money for your show or theater, click here.)

 

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Could Broadway pull a Burger King?

I knew there was a reason I was a McDonald’s fan.

Burger King made a Whopper-sized announcement this week that they are buying Tim Hortons, another processed food parts chain, and moving their headquarters to Canada . . . eh?

Why this major business move?

Simple.  Why else do big corporations (and sometimes small corporations, and sometimes super wealthy people) move?

To get further away from the long arm of the IRS.  Yep, Burger King, one of the most successful American food franchises, which earned $75.1 (!) million last quarter, is trading in their US passport to save taxes.

There’s a legal loophole that allows corporations to do what BK is doing (technically called a “tax inversion”), although Obama is swearing to try to close it and close it quick (although long time supporter Warren Buffett looks like he stabbed the Pres in the back by backing the BK move).

I’m an entrepreneur, and a capitalist, so I understand the instinct of the modern day CEO whose sole mission is, “To make as much money for my shareholders as legally possible.”  That’s really it, in a nutshell, right?  So part of me can’t blame 34 year old BK Boss Dan Schwartz, but there’s something about this that just seems plain wrong.  Because it gets to the question of, “When is enough . . . enough?”  You just made $75.1 million in a quarter, buddy.  You really need more?

I know, I know. You’re saving for a rainy day.  And again, if there’s a legal way to save money, why shouldn’t you do it?

I’ll even admit, when I get my tax bill every year, I wonder if I should move my corporate offices to New Jersey, or just move my house to New Jersey, to save on both the corporate city tax and the personal city tax.

And every time I consider it, I squash it, because it just doesn’t make sense for my business.

Unfortunately, the city, the state, and the federal government know this about Broadway Producers.  It’s why theater producers and more importantly, Broadway investors, don’t get any special breaks for what they do . . . because governments know that Broadway can’t go anywhere else but the center of NYC.  So they don’t have to make any concessions to tax codes . . . while they bend tax legislation for any movie that comes along (because movies can always got to another state, or yes, Canada).

So our taxes remain high, as billion dollar public companies skirt rules left and right.  And we, the small business men and women of this country, continue to pay their bills.

Burger King was never a first choice of mine.  But now it will never be a choice of mine.

Because as a Producer, as a Business Owner, and yeah, even as a CEO of a publicly traded company, I do believe there is such a thing as going too far to make money.

 

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While we celebrate independence, others do not. But they sing about it.

Happy fourth, everyone.  I hope that you’re reading this on your smartphone by a pool somewhere, taking a bite out of a BBQ’d burger, waiting for the fireworks to  . . . well . . . fire.

We’re a lucky country, you know.  We may have some effed up health care issues, and pot holes the size of the pool you’re sitting by, but we get a ton of freedoms and liberties that a lot of other people don’t have . . . including the right to produce theater about whatever the heck we want.

Our fellow super-power citizens in China don’t have these unalienable rights.  And earlier this week, a whole bunch of them took to the streets in Hong Kong to push for a more democratic rule.

You know what they used as their anthem?  A show tune.

Thousands of Chinese broke out into a Cantonese version of “Do You Hear The People Sing” from Les Miz as they rallied for their freedoms.

And my grandma once told me that she didn’t think musical theater could make a difference.  Take that Grams!

Click here to read an article about the protest and watch a video of the protesters singing along.

But if you really want a treat, watch this video of a boy singing along as the protesters gather behind him.  It’s the stuff of . . . well . . . a musical.  And a good one.

Watch the videos.  Support the Chinese citizens in their fight (God knows they probably can’t even read this blog right now), and remind yourself of how lucky we are that can we create whatever kind of art we want and put it on a stage . . . and that art can inspire people all over the world to want to change their lives for the better.

Happy, happy 4th.

 

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