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Disney Backs Down From Blacklisting The LA Times After Media Outcry

The film studio had barred the Times from covering upcoming Disney films in retaliation for stories on the company's business dealings in Anaheim.

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The Walt Disney Company on Tuesday reversed its decision to blacklist the Los Angeles Times from advanced film screenings amid growing outcry from industry groups, critics, and other media outlets.

Disney had blacklisted the LA Times following what the company considered negative news coverage of their business dealings in Anaheim, where the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks are located.

In a statement on Friday, Disney said the LA Times showed "a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards," and moved ahead with the stories "despite our sharing numerous indisputable facts with the reporter, several editors, and the publisher over many months."

The Times, while largely avoiding coverage of the blacklisting drama, has defended its reporting in Anaheim, noting that Disney never asked for a correction.

By Tuesday, as industry-wide blow back continued to mount, behind-the-scenes discussions had produced a break.

"We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The 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 in a statement on Tuesday.

The decision to reverse came shortly after the Toronto Film Critics Association joined four major critics' groups — including 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 — in taking Disney films out of awards consideration. The New York Times and Washington Post also announced they would be boycotting Disney preview screenings in solidarity.

In a joint statement, the critic associations said that while it is not normal for them to take actions that would penalize film artists, Disney's actions against the LA Times were "antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists."

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The controversy ignited when the LA Times published a public note to readers on Friday to explain the lack of upcoming reviews of Disney films in its coverage. The newspaper said Disney refused to offer advance screenings of its films for movie reviewers in response to two September stories examining the company's political activity in Anaheim and whether the company had paid its "fair share."

"The annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section published by the Los Angeles Times typically includes features on movies from all major studios, reflecting the diversity of films Hollywood offers during the holidays, one of the busiest box-office periods of the year," the newspaper said in a statement on its website. "This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public."

LA Times film writer Glenn Whipp tweeted the statement to explain to readers why there was no review of the new Thor: Ragnarok movie in Friday's paper.

THREAD: Why there is no review of THOR: RAGNAROK in today's Los Angeles Times. https://t.co/SMh2xhGkMf

Disney didn't like the Times' recent two-part story detailing Disneyland's business ties with the city of Anaheim.

Whipp also directly accused Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is rumored to be considering a run for political office, of having little regard for journalism and freedom of the press.

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@DanielNMiller Disney's action is a clear indication of how @RobertIger feels about journalism and a free press.

Disclaimer: BuzzFeed Culture writer Alison Willmore is Vice Chair of the New York Film Critics Circle.

Marcus Jones is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Marcus Jones at marcus.jones@buzzfeed.com.

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