[Update] Major Film Critics Associations Unite Against Disney Over LA Times Blackout

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[Editor’s Update: Following the public backlash, Disney has formally, and publicly, withdrawn its ban on the LA Times.  Original article follows below.]

Last week, it came to light that the LA Times had been blocked from screenings of Disney related movies (most notably Thor: Ragnarok), due to an investigative report that painted the company in a poor light. Since then, several film critics have come out in support of the LA Times reporters and their “blackout” by the house of mouse, and now four major Critics Associations have united and voted to disqualify Disney’s movies from any year-end awards consideration until Disney makes a change.  

This is an unprecedented move by such major film critics and shows a solidarity within the film community that makes me smile.  Obviously I enjoy Disney movies and all they bring (Star Wars, Marvel, etc), but this media blackout is an underhanded business practice that shouldn’t be tolerated.  It comes off as petty, and more of a “I’m gonna take my toys and play elsewhere” mentality than a professional venture.  I’m impressed to see so many stand up with the LA Times, and with these big associations taking a stand, I would think Disney has to do something soon to rectify the problem:  

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have voted to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.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.

-Jordan