Walt Disney Co. has reversed its decision to bar the Los Angeles Times from advance screenings of its films and access to its talent after backlash.
Kelcie Willis, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
After reports from the Los Angeles Times investigated Walt Disney Co.’s financial relationship to the city of Anahiem, California, Disney responded with banning reporters from covering the entities films. A domino effect of film critics, writers, new publications and critic groups appears to have led the ban to be lifted.
The two-part LA Timesinvestigative report examined the company’s relationship and impact on the California city where Disneyland theme park is located. According to the report, some Anaheim politicians believe agreements between Disney and the city for theme parks have meant too much money goes toward Disney and not enough goes back into the city.
“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 note to readers said. 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.
The Walt Disney Co. responded in a statement when asked about the LA Times blackout.
“We regularly work with news organizations around the world that we don’t always agree with, but in this instance the L.A. Times showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards,” the statement said. “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 -- so much so that the Orange County Register referred to the report a s ‘hit piece’ with a ‘seemingly predetermined narrative.’”
“We’ve had a long relationship with the L.A. Times, and we hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future.”
Multiple critics groups, writers and other publications and websites, including The A.V. Club, The Washington Post writer Alyssa Rosenberg and The New York Times, said that they would join The LA Times in not covering Disney screenings until Disney’s ban on the LA Times is lifted.
“A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like is meant to have a chilling effect,” the New York Times said in a statement. “This is a dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”
The board of the Toronto Film Critics Association also issued a statement, saying, “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.”
The statements and action taken by these groups -- as well as individual critics and filmmakers -- appears to have led Disney to change its mind. On Tuesday, the company said in a statement that it has restored advance screenings access to the Los Angeles Times.
“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,” Disney’s statement said.