Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai rallies studio employees in wake of cyberattack

Sony Corp. Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai visited the Culver City lot of the company’s embattled film and TV studio Wednesday to speak with executives and employees still dealing with the effects of last year’s crippling cyberattack.

The visit came two days after the Japanese executive’s address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where he spoke out publicly on the hacking assault for the first time.

In a staff email obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Hirai reiterated his comments from earlier in the week, describing Sony Pictures employees’ “resourcefulness and creativity” during the crisis as “truly extraordinary.”

The studio released its controversial comedy “The Interview” in the face of the devastating cyberattack by the so-called Guardians of Peace. The group’s hijacking of the studio’s computer systems became public on Nov 24.

U.S. officials have said the North Korean government orchestrated the attack in order to halt the release of the film, which depicts a fictional assassination attempt on the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The comedy was originally intended for wide theatrical release in 3,000 theaters on Christmas Day. But Sony changed plans after major theater chains dropped the movie in the face of terror threats from the Guardians of Peace.

Instead, Sony put the movie out through online channels on Dec. 24 and 331 independent theaters the following day.

It has grossed $31 million from video-on-demand platforms as of Sunday. It has also expanded to 580 theaters, taking in more than $5 million.

“I know that many of you have worked tirelessly — in some cases 24 hours a day for days on end — both to help the studio recover and to bring ‘The Interview’ to audiences here in the United States and in Canada, across online venues, as well as in motion picture theaters across the United States and Canada,” Hirai wrote in his staff memo.

“I look forward to Sony Pictures emerging from this experience stronger than ever,” he added. “I will be at the studio today and look forward to seeing and talking with some of you while I am there.”