Disney reverses ban on LA Times critics from screenings

Wikimedia Commons			Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland in Anaheim

The newspaper explained on November 3 that the studio's films such as "Thor: Ragnarok" were not included in its holiday movie preview because of Disney's refusal to offer advance screenings in response to a September 24 story the Times published that examined the business relationship between the company's flagship Californian theme park, Disneyland, and the city of Anaheim.

According to the statement, Disney's actions are considered "antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a unsafe precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists".

The war between Disney and the Los Angeles Times - two of Hollywood's biggest powerhouses - is forcing others to take sides, with implications that could be as far-reaching as the Oscars.

(LAT film critic Justin Chang saw it Thursday night, with a paying audience, and the review ran on the Times' website Friday.) The Times staff is simply no longer invited to press screenings and junkets, and entertainment reporter Glenn Whipp also told Indiewire that the paper's TV writers had been locked out of the sites where they review advance screeners for shows on Disney-owned networks like ABC and ESPN. "This is a risky precedent and not at all in the public interest", noted a spokesperson in a statement.

Several film critics online have expressed that they're supporting the move by not attending screenings of Disney films.

But Disney's decision to punish the Times' journalists, rather than engage in a public discussion of the issues raised in a story about Disney's business relationship with Anaheim, raises a larger, more troubling issue, the critics noted. But after an outcry by the nation's film critics, Disney is backing down.

Disney officials probably won't lose sleep over the four critics groups that say they will refuse to consider the company's titles for awards. The key line from that statement bundles the Disney action with signals coming from the White House: "Disney's actions. are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a risky precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists".

A company spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Disney studio banned the Los Angeles Times from access to its screenings and talent last week, calling the 136-year-old publication's coverage "biased and inaccurate".

Studios commonly offer these screenings so critics have time to write their reviews at least a day before a movie debuts, allowing readers to read the reviews before deciding whether to see a movie on its opening night. We've asked the Los Angeles Times if it offered any concessions in those chats. "We hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future".

This season, Disney's awards division is mounting campaigns for its live-action remake Beauty and the Beast, its high-profile sequels Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Cars 3, its animated short Lou (which was attached to Cars 3) and its animated feature Coco.

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