Update: Following the backlash, Disney has ended its ban on the L.A. Times following backlash and news outlets, “including The Washington Post, The New York Times and the A.V. Club, said they were boycotting advance screenings of Disney films in solidarity. Disney released the following statement [via NY 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 said in a statement.
Original story below:
For those who saw the news yesterday that Disney might buy 20th Century Fox and were super jazzed at the possibility of a bigger MCU, here’s another problem with corporate consolidation: a giant corporation using its power to try and cow journalists into submission.
That’s what Disney is currently trying to do by banning the L.A. Times critics from reviewing Disney movies over an article the L.A. Times ran related to Disney’s business arrangements with the City of Anaheim. So because of a story that had nothing to do with Disney’s movies, Disney is using its corporate might to force the L.A. Times to only print positive coverage of its business dealings lest they lose out on reviewing Disney’s movies.
In response, four major critics groups—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 statement saying they will refuse to consider any Disney movie for year-end awards until the ban is lifted. That’s well-intentioned, but it seems kind of meek as a response.
Disney doesn’t really care about year-end awards. They care about blockbusters. Marvel movies, Pixar movies, and Star Wars movies are all going to be just fine whether or not they end up on any critics’ group year-end list. Yes, the studio would probably like to have Best Animated feature steam for Coco and maybe rack up some technical accomplishments, but winning Oscars isn’t part of the studio’s strategy. They’re not A24, Fox Searchlight, or Focus Features. These critics groups are basically taking away something Disney doesn’t care about all that much.
A far more forceful response comes from Washington Post critic Alyssa Rosenberg. Rosenberg published an editorial today stating that she would not review Star Wars: The Last Jedi or any other Disney movie until the ban on the L.A. Times is lifted. Now imaging if all the critics from the aforementioned groups followed Rosenberg’s lead, and every time a Disney movie was up for review, they instead published an article explaining that readers could have a review but that Disney is trying to punish journalists who get in the way of its business interests. They would educate readers and possibly rally support for their cause.
Cutting off Disney from year-end consideration feels more like a self-serving move devoid of sacrifice. I respect the people in these critics’ organizations, and I don’t doubt their good intentions. But if they really want to punish Disney, they’ll need to do more than simply disqualify them from awards.