Critics Groups Won't Consider Disney Films for Awards Until L.A. Times Ban Lifted

The L.A. Film Critics Association, N.Y. Film Critics Circle, Boston Society of Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics released a joint statement stressing the importance of a free press.

In a joint statement, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle, Boston Society of Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics have denounced Disney's "media blackout" of the Los Angeles Times. And the four critics organizations said that Disney films are disqualified from consideration for the groups' year-end awards "until said blackout is publicly rescinded."

This decision is the latest development in an ongoing tiff between the Walt Disney Co. and the Los Angeles Times. Disney, according to the Times, didn't offer the latter advance screenings of its upcoming holiday releases after the paper published a story that the Bob Iger-led conglomerate objected to about Disneyland's business ties with the city of Anaheim.

According to the Times, Disney called the story "unfair coverage" and columnist Glenn Whipp tweeted that the newspaper had been "put on pause" by Disney, "barring its reporters and critics from seeing [Disney] movies."

For its part, Disney claimed the Times piece "showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards."

"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 — so much so that the Orange County Register referred to the report as 'a hit piece' with a 'seemingly predetermined narrative.' We've had a long relationship with the L.A. Times, and we hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future," Disney said in a statement.

On Monday, other journalists expressed their solidarity with the L.A. Times.

In a statement, the critics' groups said Disney's actions "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," the groups added. "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 is set to vote on its annual awards Thursday, Nov. 30, with the L.A. Film Critics Association voting Sunday, Dec. 3, the Boston critics voting Sunday, Dec. 10, and the National Society of Film Critics voting Saturday, Jan. 6.

Later on Tuesday, the Toronto Film Critics Association joined the boycott, adding that members now "join with our fellow critics' organizations stateside in denouncing the Walt Disney Company's media blackout of the Los Angeles Times."

The organization, calling it "an international protest," says they have "voted to disqualify Disney's films from consideration at our Dec. 10 awards meeting unless the blackout is lifted prior to the event. We fully support press and intellectual freedoms, and we urge Disney to do the same by lifting its ban on the L.A. Times."

Disney films that are considered awards contenders in multiple categories include the studio's live-action Beauty and the Beast and Disney-Pixar's upcoming animated film Coco. Fellow Disney-Pixar release Cars 3 is also considered a best animated feature Oscar frontrunner. Critics have yet to review Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but depending on how it's received, the Lucasfilm sequel could also be a contender.

Later Tuesday, the Television Critics Association's board released its own statement about the Disney-L.A. Times rift.

"The Television Critics Association understands that screeners and coverage opportunities are a privilege and not a right, but we condemn any circumstance in which a company takes punitive action against journalists for doing their jobs," the board said.

TCA's president is Hollywood Reporter TV critic Dan Fienberg.

9:28 a.m. Updated with the TCA's statement.

11:40 a.m. Updated with Toronto Film Critics' statement. 

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