Though Gov. Nathan Deal won’t be experiencing high Georgia temperatures for a few more months, he’s already feeling the Hollywood heat.
Prominently counted among the companies publicly flexing their muscles against an anti-gay bill currently on Deal’s desk are Disney, The Weinstein Company, Steven Spielberg‘s Amblin Partners, Starz, Netflix, the NFL, AMC, Time Warner, Viacom, 21st Century Fox, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, STX Entertainment, MGM and Comcast NBC Universal. More are likely to come forward.
Additionally, 38 individuals, including Greg Berlanti, Matt Bomer, Seth MacFarlane, Ryan Murphy, Rob Reiner, Aaron Sorkin, Lee Daniels, Bob and Harvey Weinstein (again), Marisa Tomei, Anne Hathaway, Diablo Cody, etc. signed a letter presented to Deal by the Human Rights Campaign.
Last week, the Georgia Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Free Exercise Protection Act, which would allow for faith-based organizations to refuse to provide services “that violate such faith-based organizations sincerely held religious belief.” That’s not sitting well inside Los Angeles offices.
Disney and The Weinstein Company came down the hardest on a potential piece of Peach State legislation, promising to boycott their substantial local production if the Republican Deal signs the bill into law. Below are their statements.
“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,” Disney said.
“Amblin Partners is committed to diversity and inclusion for all. We would be disappointed to see our pipeline of production end at the Georgia border because of this legislation. While we are aware that Governor Deal has not yet made a decision, we stand with our industry colleagues in strongly urging him to veto this bill,” the company said in a statement to TheWrap.
“The Weinstein Company will not stand behind sanctioning the discrimination of LGBT people or any American,” the company said in a statement to TheWrap. “We have plans in place to begin filming Lee Daniels‘ new film in Georgia later this year, but will move the production if this unlawful bill is enacted. We hope Governor Deal will veto bill HB 757 and not allow sanctioned bigotry to become law in Georgia.”
Netflix has also threatened to pull financial support, saying they “had planned on filming two series there in the coming months” but “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practice be signed into state law, we will move our productions elsewhere.” STX Entertainment, infused with cash and building an expansive slate, also said they would boycott the state as a possible filming location for upcoming projects.
The four companies can afford to take such strong stands, probably more so than the southern state can afford to lose their business.
Aside from some already bad PR, here’s what’s at stake for Georgia: In 2013, the state brought in almost a billion dollars from local Hollywood productions; $938 million, to be precise. And Georgia Tech Economics Professor Tibor Besedes told TheWrap on Wednesday that the number has likely been rising.
Of course, drawing Angelenos out to Georgia doesn’t come cheap. In 2009, the state handed out $170 million in tax credits to lure these companies. But even if that number has grown substantially since then, it’s nowhere near the economic benefits that Georgia receives — which also include job growth that’s outpacing available employees.
In other words, Georgia would be unwise to lose the entertainment industry, which is why Besedes believes a veto stamp is coming out of Deal’s desk drawer. It’d be “disastrous” if a signature instead brought the bill into law, he opined.
We’ll find out soon enough, perhaps before the bill’s May 3 deadline, after which time inaction will be equivalent to approval. Should either come to pass, Hollywood South may have to move a little farther north. Or west. Or slightly east. Or, we suppose, even a little bit more south.