Last week, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Disney had barred the paper’s film critics from screenings of Thor: Ragnarok and other upcoming Disney films over “unfair coverage” of the company’s business dealings in Anaheim. In response, several critics and media companies have joined a growing protest of Disney films. Now, four major film critics’ groups — 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 — have released a joint statement denouncing Disney. They’ve also announced a collective vote to disqualify Disney films from their year-end awards until the company lifts the blackout on the L.A. Times. [Ed. note: New York’s film critic David Edelstein is a member of the NYFCC.]
Films potentially affected could include Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Thor: Ragnarok; the live-action Beauty and the Beast; Cars 3; Pixar’s Coco; and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Disney, which is reportedly in the process of buying 21st Century Fox, said it banned the paper for what it believed was “a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda.” The four film critics’ associations say that justification “should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.” You can read the full statement below.
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have voted to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.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.
Update, 12:30 p.m.: The Television Critics Association has also issued a statement about the controversy.
The Television Critics Association board states, “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.”
Daniel J. Fienberg, TCA President
Melanie McFarland, TCA Secretary
Jacqueline Cutler, TCA Treasurer
Board Officers Maureen Ryan, Damian Holbrook, Todd VanDerWerff and Howard Benjamin
[TCA Vice President Sarah Rodman of the Los Angeles Times recused herself from deliberation on this statement.]