Viacom, CBS, Sony, AMC, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia Go Public Against Georgia Abortion Law
A slew of major Hollywood studios with business in the state finally spoke up about how the "highly restrictive legislation" may require them to reevaluate taking productions there.
Several major Hollywood studios joined the chorus of industry voices speaking out against Georgia's new abortion law, which was signed by the governor on May 7.
"We operate and produce work in many states and within several countries at any given time, and while that doesn't mean we agree with every position taken by a state or country and their leaders, we do respect due process," WarnerMedia said Thursday in a statement. "We will watch the situation closely, and if the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine how and where to shoot any given project."
WarnerMedia is currently filming The Conjuring 3 in the state and will soon shoot the Suicide Squad sequel there. On the television side, Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams' show Lovecraft Country and The Outsider, executive produced by Jason Bateman, are both in production in Georgia for HBO.
Producers on the HBO shows shooting in the state have already weighed in on the law, which seeks to ban abortions once a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, as soon as six weeks. The bill includes exceptions for rape and incest — only if the mother files a police report and if her life is in danger. Abrams and Peele have pledged to donate their episodic fees for the first season to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia, while Bateman has said that if the law remains in place, he won't work in Georgia.
In its own statement Thursday, NBCUniversal said that the heartbeat bill, if actually enacted, would "strongly impact our decision-making" for production in the area. “We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court. If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future.”
AMC, which films its tentpole The Walking Dead in the state, also spoke up Thursday afternoon. "If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will reevaluate our activity in Georgia," said a spokesperson. "Similar bills — some even more restrictive — have passed in multiple states and have been challenged. This is likely to be a long and complicated fight and we are watching it all very closely."
Sony weighed in later in the day, as well. "As the MPAA has noted, the outcome of the Georgia ‘Heartbeat Law,’ and similar proposed legislation in other states, will be determined through the legal process," said a Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesperson. "We will continue to monitor that process in close consultation with our filmmakers and television showrunners, talent and other stakeholders as we consider our future production options."
CBS, which films MacGyver in the state, also chimed in. "Creative voices across our industry have expressed strong concern about the recently signed bill in Georgia. The ability to attract the best talent is the first step in producing great entertainment content and is always an important consideration in where we film any series," said a rep for the company. "We are monitoring the legislative and legal developments in Georgia with the full expectation that the process in the courts will play out for some time. For now, we will continue producing our series based there that have production orders for next season. If the law takes effect in Georgia or elsewhere, these may not be viable locations for our future production."
Another company to weigh in was Viacom. "We are closely monitoring the situation in Georgia and expect the legislation will be subject to significant legal challenges," said a rep. "Should the new law ever take effect, we will assess whether we will continue to produce projects in Georgia."
STX on Thursday also referenced its productions in Georgia, addressing the current work on its show Greenland. In an email to STX employees, CEO Robert Simonds wrote, "As many of you know, when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the HB 481 'fetal heartbeat' bill into law on May 7th, STX was in pre-production on the film Greenland in Atlanta, GA. While the bill has not yet come into effect, we do not believe it represents the will of the people in Georgia. After thoughtful consideration about how best to move forward, we feel that relocating production would penalize the hundreds of talented crew members who would abruptly be out of jobs. In an effort to aid those on the ground fighting to reverse this legislation, STX will be making a donation to the ACLU of Georgia. Should HB 481 ever officially come into effect, we will reassess filming any future projects in the state."
The new statements come amid a flurry of belated responses from major entertainment companies to the law, enacted three weeks previously. On Wednesday, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger said in an interview it would be "very difficult" for his company to continue shooting in Georgia if the law, which is set to be enacted in 2020, remained in place. "I think many people who work for us will not want to work there and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully," the exec told Reuters. Disney was the first major studio to speak out against the law.
On Tuesday, Netflix made its own statement on the abortion law, saying that it might "rethink" its operations in Georgia if the law were to go into effect. "We have many women working on productions in Georgia whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law," Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement. "It's why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we'll continue to film there — while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we'd rethink our entire investment in Georgia."
The quickest Hollywood shingles to respond to the law were Killer Films, behind Vox Lux, First Reformed and Carol; Blown Deadline Productions, run by The Deuce creator David Simon; Duplass Brothers Productions, run by the eponymous actor-writer-producer brothers; Color Force, run by Nina Jacobson; and CounterNarrative Films, behind Netflix's Triple Frontier.
Some prominent Georgia lawmakers, including former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, have pushed back on the potential effectiveness of a boycott. "While I support those who want to live their values by not bringing their resources here, I do not want to harm the citizens of Georgia who are doing this work," she said on MSNBC.
May 30, 11:59 a.m. Updated to include NBCUniversal's statement.