Amidst significant media backlash, the Walt Disney Company has reversed its decision to ban film critics with the Los Angeles Times from press screenings of its films.
Disney said in a statement:
“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.”
The Walt Disney Co. had revoked the Times’ access to all press briefings, an ABC website for journalists and other media events following a September story in the paper titled “Is Disney paying its share in Anaheim?” which focused on the company’s business ties with the city of Anaheim. Disney had considered the story to be unfair, and blacklisted the newspaper following its publication.
In response to the blacklisting, several individual journalists, film critics and media outlets ranging from The New York Times, Washington Post and The A.V. Club announced their own boycotts of advance screenings of Disney films.
The A.V. Club’s A. A. Dowd wrote that the outlet took exception with Disney’s strong-arm tactics.
“It’s a dangerous precedent that Disney is setting: Write an unfavorable story—one that Disney hasn’t disputed factually, even—and it will blacklist your publication, punishing independent journalism by using its massive corporate influence. And it’s one that we similarly can’t abide. The A.V. Club will follow [Washingont Post film critic Alyssa] Rosenberg’s lead and—effective immediately—we will refrain from attending any press screenings of Disney movies, at least until the company rescinds its ban on The Los Angeles Times. “
Film critic groups had also voted to disqualify Disney films from award nominations. In a release, 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 announced their decision, wherein “all four critics’ organizations have voted to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.”
The Walt Disney Co. has enacted punitive action against news organizations and analysts in the past for publishing pieces the company deemed unfair. Press liaisons have told journalists several times that access to Disney executives and film previews is “a privilege and not a right.”
— Rich Greenfield (@RichBTIG) August 17, 2017
“A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like is meant to have a chilling effect,” The Times said. “This is a dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”