The Walt Disney Company has reversed an earlier decision to ban the LA Times from attending advanced screenings of its movies for reviewing purposes. Originally, the company put a halt on inviting the newspaper to screenings due to what it called biased reporting about Disney as it relates to the company’s relationship with Anaheim, Ca., the home of Disneyland, and the tax incentives it receives from the city.
On November 3, a note was posted on the website of the LA Times that reads, “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.”
What followed was backlash from several critics groups, some of whom threatened to disqualify Disney films from year-end awards consideration. “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 Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics, and the National Society of Film Critics wrote in a joint statement.
The Television Critics Association followed with a statement of their own, reading, “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.”
Among others who spoke up was director Ava DuVernay, whose next film is Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time. She tweeted her solidarity with the reporters and critics boycotting Disney movies over the ban, writing, “Saluting the film journalists standing up for one another. Standing with you.”
Now, Disney is backing off of the ban. It aren’t necessarily admitting it were in the wrong, though. “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 company says.
The move comes as Disney heads into a busy end of the year. Not only did Thor: Ragnarok just land in theaters, but the Pixar film Coco releases on November 22 and, on December 15, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will debut.
Interestingly, it was also recently reported that Disney has been in talks to possibly acquire rival media conglomerate 21st Century Fox recently. Those discussions are no longer believed to be active.