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Critics Groups Disqualify Disney Films Over Los Angeles Times Ban

UPDATEDDisney on Tuesday ended its block of the Los Angeles Times from press screenings of its movies following growing backlash.

“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,” a Disney spokesperson said.

Five critics groups had blasted the Walt Disney Co.’s media blackout of the Los Angeles Times and pledged to disqualify Disney’s films from awards consideration until the blackout is lifted.

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 jointly issued the statement Tuesday morning. The Toronto Film Critics Association joined the boycott on Tuesday as well.

The New York Times also announced that it would stand in solidarity with the LA Times.

“The New York Times will not attend preview screenings of Disney films until access is restored to The Los Angeles Times,” the newspaper said in a statement. “A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like is meant to have a chilling effect. This is a dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”

The controversy went public on Nov. 3 when the Los Angeles Times published a statement that its writers and editors had been blocked from attending advance screenings of Disney films as a result of the newspaper’s  coverage of Disney’s business arrangements with the City of Anaheim.

“Disney’s actions, which include an indefinite ban on any interaction with The Times, are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists,” the statement said.

“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 groups added. “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.”

The New York Film Critics Circle will vote on its annual awards on Nov. 30. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association will vote on Dec. 3. The Boston Society of Film Critics will vote Dec. 10; and the National Society of Film Critics will vote Jan. 6.

Several other outlets had said they would join in not reviewing Disney films until the dispute is resolved.

The newspaper explained on Nov. 3 that the studio’s films such as “Thor: Ragnarok” were not included in its holiday movie preview because of Disney’s refusal to offer advance screenings in response to a Sept. 24 story the Times published that examined the business relationship between the company’s flagship Californian theme park, Disneyland, and the city of Anaheim.

“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,” the Times wrote in an editor’s note on its movie preview. “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 review for “Thor: Ragnarok” was not published until public screenings had begun.

Disney alleged last week that the Times “showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards.”

“Despite our sharing numerous indisputable facts with the reporter, several editors, and the publisher over many months, the Times moved forward with a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda,” Disney said in a statement. “We’ve had a long relationship with the L.A. Times. We hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future.”

Ava DuVernay, director of Disney’s March 9 release “A Wrinkle in Time,” said she’s supporting journalists such as The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg over their decision to boycott Disney movies.

The Television Critics Association board weighed in with a condemnation of Disney on Tuesday: “The Television Critics 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.”

Disney’s awards season contenders include its live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and animated films “Cars 3” and “Coco.”

 

 

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