The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday lifted its ban of Los Angeles Times reporters and critics from its press screenings after a widespread backlash prompted several media outlets to announce their own boycotts of Disney movies.
In a statement Tuesday, Disney said it was restoring access to the newspaper after “productive discussions with the newly installed leadership” at the Times. Disney had barred the Times from its screenings after the paper published a two-part investigative series on the company’s business dealings in Anaheim, California.
Disney’s punitive measures against the Times led to many outlets refusing advance coverage of the studio’s films, including The New York Times and The A.V. Club. Four prominent film critics groups announced Tuesday that they would bar Disney films from receiving awards consideration.
The ban’s withdraw Tuesday ended an unusual clash between Hollywood’s arguably most powerful studio and the media outlets that regularly write about its movies.
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics all said that wouldn’t consider Disney films for their year-end awards. The critics groups noted that it was “admittedly extraordinary” to “take any action that might penalize film artists for decisions beyond their control.”
“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,” the statement continued. “Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.”
The New York Times said in a statement Tuesday that it wouldn’t attend preview screenings of Disney films while the LA Times can’t, saying Disney’s move is a “dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”
Disney on Friday said that the Times series in September detailing what it characterized as a complicated and increasingly tense relationship between Anaheim and the company showed “a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards.” It added that the Times published a “biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda.”
Daniel Miller, the Times reporter who wrote the series, tweeted that “Disney never asked for a correction.” The newspaper declined further comment.
With the ban concluded, critics said they would return to business as usual. Disney’s upcoming films are the Pixar release Coco and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
“See you guys at the Coco screening,” wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott.
Before the ban was lifted, The Toronto Film Critics Association also joined the protest Tuesday, noting it has voted to disqualify Disney’s films from consideration at its Dec. 10 awards meeting.
Also Tuesday, the executive board of the Television Critics Association, a group of more than 200 print and online journalists who cover TV, rebuked Disney’s move.
The association “understands that screeners and coverage opportunities are a privilege and not a right, but we condemn any circumstance in which a company takes punitive action against journalists for doing their jobs,” the board said in a statement.
Washington Post critic-at-large Alyssa Rosenberg wrote Monday that she would “show solidarity” with Times critics by seeing movies “under the same condition they do.” She added that she was speaking as an individual and “The Post has not taken a decision to participate in any boycott.” Two pop culture websites, the A.V. Club and Flavorwire, made similar announcements Monday. Flavorwire went a step further, stating it wouldn’t cover any Disney releases “as long as the Times ban stands.”
The New York Times said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it won’t attend preview screenings of Disney films while the LA Times can’t, saying Disney’s move is a “dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.” Critics will review Disney movies when they are released to the public.
The Boston Globe said Tuesday that it won’t publish “related features that make use of” Disney screenings and studio-arranged interviews while LA Times journalists are denied access. Film reviews will be a “case-by-case decision, whether or not we attend advance screenings.”