The Walt Disney Company on Tuesday lifted its ban of Los Angeles Times reporters and critics from its press screenings after a widespread backlash prompted several media outlets to announce their own boycotts of Disney’s films.

In a statement on Tuesday, Disney said it was restoring access to the newspaper after “productive discussions with the newly installed leadership” at the Los Angeles Times.

The ban’s withdrawal on Tuesday ended an unusual clash between Hollywood’s arguably most powerful studio and the media outlets that write about its movies.

 In response to a Los Angeles Times series about the relationship between the Walt Disney Co. and the city of Anaheim, the company is barring the paper from advance screenings of its films. AP

In response to a Los Angeles Times series about the relationship between the Walt Disney Co. and the city of Anaheim, the company had barred the paper from advance screenings of its films. AP

“The Los Angeles Times has covered the Walt Disney Company since its founding, here in Los Angeles, in 1923,” the newspaper said in a statement. “We look forward to reporting on Disney well into the future.”

How it all began?

The LA Times ran a two-part series in late September looking into what it characterised as a complicated and increasingly tense relationship between the the city of Anaheim, California and the Disneyland Resort.

Disney soon responded in a statement condemning the LA Times for its “complete disregard for basic journalistic standards” and barred the paper from advance screenings of its films and access to its talent.

“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,” the statement continued.

Daniel Miller, the reporter who wrote both pieces, tweeted that, “Disney never asked for a correction.”

The growing backlash

Disney’s punitive measures against the LA Times led to many outlets refusing advance coverage of the studio’s films, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe and The AV Club.

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 announced on Tuesday that they would bar Disney films from receiving awards consideration. In a joint statement released early on Tuesday, the four prominent film critics groups denounced Disney’s decision, saying it “should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.” The groups said Disney films will not be considered for awards until the blackout of the LA Times is lifted.

Four prominent film critics groups announced they will bar Walt Disney Co. films from receiving awards consideration over the company’s decision to bar the Los Angeles Times. AFP

Four prominent film critics groups announced they will bar Walt Disney Co. films from receiving awards consideration over the company’s decision to bar the Los Angeles Times. AFP

The New York Times said in a statement that it wouldn’t attend preview screenings of Disney films while the LA Times can’t, saying Disney’s move is a “dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”

Daniel J Fienberg, president of The Television Critics Association too expressed his concern. “The Television Critics Association understands that screeners and coverage opportunities are a privilege and not a right,” said Fienberg, in a statement. “But we condemn any circumstance in which a company takes punitive action against journalists for doing their jobs.”

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who is directing Disney’s upcoming film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, and David Simon, writer and creator of acclaimed HBO shows like The Wire, Treme and The Deuce, too voiced their support.

With growing backlash, Disney ended the ban and with the controversy concluded, the critics said they would return to business as usual. Disney’s upcoming films are the Pixar release Coco and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “See you guys at the Coco screening,” wrote New York Times critic AO Scott.


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