Big Hollywood – from A-list actors to studios, producers and TV networks that generate $1.7 billion a year in Georgia – are threatening to pull out of the state if Gov. Nathan Deal doesn't veto a controversial anti-gay “religious freedom” bill.
The chorus of calls from the entertainment industry has been growing louder all week in the wake of the General Assembly passing House Bill 757, the so-called Fee Exercise Protection Act.
On Wednesday, Disney and Marvel said they will take their considerable business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.” Via Variety:
With generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a production hub, with Marvel currently shooting “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta. “Captain America: Civil War” shot there last summer.
“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said on Wednesday.
That came two days after the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents major Hollywood studios, spoke out against the bill. Via Variety:
“We are confident that Governor Deal will not allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Georgia,” said Vans Stevenson, MPAA senior vice president of state government affairs.
And those zombies from “The Walking Dead,” the hit AMC show produced in metro Atlanta? They are speaking out, too. Via the Wrap:
“As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “We applaud Governor Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well.”
Viacom – the parent of Paramount, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1, Spike and MTV – also called on Deal to veto the legislation. Via the Hollywood Reporter:
“Viacom is proud to champion diversity and acceptance, which are core values of our company,” a company spokesperson stated. “We have enjoyed doing business in Georgia for many years and we urge Governor Deal to continue to resist and reject the patently discriminatory laws being proposed.”
But wait, there's more.
Starz, 21st Century Fox and Lionsgate joined the group Thursday. The pay cabler's original series Survivor's Remorse is currently filming its third season in Georgia. “Starz is an inclusionary company and strongly opposes discrimination in any form, against anyone,” the company said in a statement. “As a proud production partner in Georgia for several years, we urge Governor Deal to show the same leadership he has in the past and reject this divisive legislation.”
“On behalf of 21st Century Fox’s many creative partners and colleagues who choose to film their projects in the beautiful state of Georgia, we join the growing coalition of businesses in asking Governor Deal to veto this bill,” a company spokesperson said.
“Lionsgate has deep roots in the State of Georgia in our film, television and location-based entertainment businesses,” read a statement. “As a Company committed to diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance, we urge the Governor of Georgia to veto the deplorable and regressive legislation (House Bill 757) that has been sent to him. We take pride in our relationship with the people of Georgia and want to ensure that we can continue to offer our employees and talent there a working environment consistent with our policies and values.”
Add to the list Time Warner, which is the parent of HBO, Warner Bros. and Atlanta-based Turner. Via the Hollywood Reporter:
“At Time Warner, diversity in all its forms is core to our value system and to the success of our business,” the company said in a statement released Thursday morning. “We strongly oppose the discriminatory language and intent of Georgia's pending religious liberty bill, which clearly violates the values and principles of inclusion and the ability of all people to live and work free from discrimination.”
“All of our divisions — HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner — have business interests in Georgia but none more than Turner, an active participant in the Georgia Prospers campaign, a coalition of business leaders committed to a Georgia that welcomes all people,” the statement reads. Time Warner's CNN is based in Atlanta. “Georgia bill HB 757 is in contradiction to this campaign, to the values we hold dear, and to the type of workplace we guarantee to our employees. We urge Governor Deal to exercise his veto.”
CBS, NBCUniversal and Discovery are also lobbying for Deal to ditch the legislation. CBS owns 50 percent of The CW, which films both “The Vampire Diaries” and “Originals” in Georgia. Warner Bros. owns the other half of The CW. Via Deadline:
“CBS Corporation is committed to an environment that values diversity and inclusion throughout the company and in all our business practices,” said the company in a statement Thursday. “The discriminatory language in Georgia’s proposed religious liberty bill conflicts with these core ethics and values. We call on Governor Deal to exercise his veto power.”
The avalanche of Hollywood studios and powerbrokers coming out against the legislation comes after HRC President Chad Griffin called for producers to halt productions in Georgia if Deal doesn't veto the bill. Griffin made the call on Saturday during an HRC gala in Los Angeles.
On Thursday, Griffin praised the companies as HRC released a letter to Deal signed by nearly 40 Hollywood A-listers, directors and producers asking the governor to veto the legislation or face losing their business.
As you know, Atlanta is often referred to as the Hollywood of the South. During the last fiscal year, at least 248 films and television productions were shot in Georgia, adding at least $1.7 billion in direct spending to the state's economy. Additionally, the entertainment industry helped to bring more than 100 businesses to Georgia through relocation or expansion in the past fiscal year. Only two states — California and New York — have a larger entertainment industry footprint and both have statewide non-discrimination laws on the books. Unfortunately, Georgia not only lacks such a law, but could soon move from a bad situation to worse with H.B. 757.
We pride ourselves on running inclusive companies, and while we have enjoyed a positive partnership on productions in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere if any legislation sanctioning discrimination is signed into state law.
The letter is signed by gay actors and producers Matt Bomer, Dustin Lance Black, Lee Daniels and Ryan Murphy. It also includes Hollywood heavyweights Anne Hathaway, Seth MacFarlane, Julianne Moore, Rob Reiner, Aaron Sorkin, Marisa Tomei, Gus Van Sant, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein.
The crush of Hollywood studios and TV networks coming out against the legislation follows a report by Atlanta hospitality officials that conferences are also threatening to leave the city – to the tune of $6 billion. Scores of businesses are also part of the growing national backlash.