Numerous journalists, critics and professionals working within the entertainment industry have publicly vowed to ignore Disney movies during awards season, over its blacklisting of the Los Angeles Times for unfavorable coverage of Disney’s theme parks.
The decision comes after the L.A. Times last week noted that Disney had blacklisted the newspaper by barring reporters and critics from early screenings. Disney’s retaliation followed a three-part investigative series by the paper that called out the working conditions of the studio’s theme park in Los Angeles. The L.A. Times’ full statement on the matter can be read below.
The annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section published by the Los Angeles Times typically includes features on movies from all major studios, reflecting the diversity of films Hollywood offers during the holidays, one of the busiest box-office periods of the year. This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public.
Disney responded to the Times by restating their disappointment with its previous coverage. That triggered the boycott by numerous public figures, in solidarity with the Times. Many critics and journalists who cover Disney’s enormous film empire saw the company’s blacklisting of the Times as an abuse of power.
A joint statement by the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critic Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics, emphasized how uncommon their decision is.
“It is admittedly extraordinary for a critics’ group, let alone four critics’ groups, to take any action that might penalize film artists for decisions beyond their control,” the statement, released today, reads. “But Disney brought forth this action when it chose to punish the Times’ journalists rather than express its disagreement with a business story via ongoing public discussion. Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.”
Today, directors and producers began announcing their support for journalists in light Disney’s decision. One director, Ava DuVernay, who recently completed work on a A Wrinkle in Time for Disney, offered solidarity on Twitter.
Saluting the film journalists standing up for one another. Standing with you. https://t.co/M9Fs22vv4L— Ava DuVernay (@ava) November 7, 2017
David Simon, creator of The Wire, went one step further, confirming that he would not vote for any Disney title this awards season.
If journos being selectively barred, then I'll play, too. This award season, all Disney screeners dumped. No votes from me for their stuff. https://t.co/ih8UqkZk01— David Simon (@AoDespair) November 7, 2017
I give no fuck about the awards save for the fact that Disney apparently does and is willing to engage in shitbaggery. So here we go.— David Simon (@AoDespair) November 7, 2017
This is, essentially, what would affect Disney the most. Not having early reviews from outlets or having fewer stories about Marvel Studios trailers won’t harm Disney’s business. What Disney likes to tout, however, are the awards it earns throughout the year. A “Best Animated Picture” win at the Oscars, for example.
A boycott to not vote for a Disney film — or even watch the screeners sent out to members of the voting body — will hurt the company’s prestige. But it’s still not too big of a deal. Disney continues to have record breaking years at the box office, and that’s not going to change because a movie loses out at the Academy Awards or reviews for Star Wars: The Last Jedi aren’t published until the movie is released on Dec. 15.
Disney has yet to respond to the decision by critics and industry members, but Polygon has reached out for comment.
Update: Disney has ended its ban on the Los Angeles Times, a statement sent to The New York Times confirms. The statement can be read in full below.
We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.