Disney Backs Off L.A. Times Ban Following Backlash

Disney CEO Robert Iger 2013 - Getty - H 2017
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Several media outlets and critics' organizations announced they would boycott the studio's films until the ban was lifted.

The Walt Disney Company, facing mounting backlash, is backing off an earlier ban of sorts against the Los Angeles Times.

The conglomerate is still upset about what it considered a biased story critical of taxpayer money going to Disneyland in Anaheim, but it is now rescinding a directive that had shut out L.A. Times reporters from Disney movie screenings.

“We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at he 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 Tuesday in a statement.

Disney's reversal of strategy comes as journalists and filmmakers express their solidarity with the L.A. Times. Several reporters, for example, have said they'll refrain from reviewing Disney movies for as long as Disney's boycott is in place, a development that prompted helmer Ava DuVernay to tweet: "Saluting the film journalists standing up for one another. Standing with you." DuVernay directed the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time for Disney.

Also, the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critic Association and Boston Society of Film Critics issued a joint statement saying that Disney's response to a story in the L.A. Times that it did not like "should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included."

Insiders say that while Disney is no longer shutting out the L.A. Times from its movies, it is still retaliating against the newspaper by barring its reporters from the sort of insider access to its theme parks that journalists from other outlets might receive.

On Tuesday, The New York Times said it wouldn't attend any screenings of a Disney movie unless the L.A. Times was also invited.

Disney's partial reversal comes four days after the L.A. Times said on its website that the conglomerate was no longer inviting its journalists to advance movie screenings, so its reviews of Disney's films would be written after the studio's movies were released to the public.

The story that caused Disney to punish the paper was written by Daniel Miller, a former journalist with The Hollywood Reporter who is now a staff writer at the L.A. Times. The two-part story indicated that some residents and local politicians in Anaheim weren't happy about tax incentives being doled out to Disneyland.

Disney released a statement four days ago saying the L.A. Times "showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards" in publishing Miller's story. "The Times moved forward with a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda," the statement read.