Critics Groups Disqualify Disney From Awards Voting Over LA Times Blackout

Just as we are considering the might Disney would have if they merged with 20th Century Fox, it's important to remember they are already incredibly strong and have no problem showing it. In recent days Disney has kept The LA Times in a "blackout", not allowing their critics to screen new films (which included Thor: Ragnarok) in retaliation for a piece the newspaper wrote about their business dealing with the city of Anaheim. Disney didn't like it, and you don't dare diss the Mouse. Many saw it as a shocking abuse of power and a violation of our right to a free press, and some critic groups are taking action.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics, and New York Film Critics Circle have disqualified all of Disney's awards-contending movies from consideration until the blackout has been lifted. Oh, and it needs to be done publicly. Here is their joint statement:

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have voted to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until said blackout is publicly rescinded.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

This is a big, bold move by these groups that will certainly draw the Mouse House's ire.  I commend them on the action, taking the only steps within their power to take. As a member of WAFCA and the BFCA I imagine there will be lots of discussion about whether we should do the same. It's my personal belief that we should stand by our colleagues in the press and follow their lead, so if it comes  to a vote you know where my head is at. I'm just curious to see if other groups, and perhaps the larger guilds, follow suit.