This is in response to Disney banning Los Angeles Times critics from advanced screenings and other access to the usual press resources, because of unfavorable business coverage of Disney by the paper. [LATimes] This has prompted some other film journalists — including Flavorwire, The AV Club, and Alyssa Rosenberg at The Washington Post — to refuse to cover Disney films in advance. [CNN]
From a press release I just received:
Nov. 7, 2017 — The members of 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 denounce the Walt Disney Company’s media blackout of the Los Angeles Times. Furthermore, all four critics’ organizations have voted to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.
On Nov. 3, The Times published a statement that its writers and editors had been blocked from attending advance screenings of Disney films, in response to The Times’ news 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.
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. 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 Thursday, Nov. 30; the Los Angeles Film Critics Association will vote Sunday, Dec. 3; the Boston Society of Film Critics will vote Sunday, Dec. 10; and the National Society of Film Critics will vote Saturday, Jan. 6.
The relationship between the studios and critics has always been a contentious one, for obvious reasons, but what might have been previously called a cold war has hotted up this year, what with Hollywood deciding that it was a good idea to start blaming bad reviews and Rotten Tomatoes for declining box office. (This isn’t true.) I predict that this will only continue to get uglier.
UPDATE (8:04pm): Disney has now backed down.