The backlash to Disney’s recent decision to ban the Los Angeles Times from press screenings of its movies has had a stunningly quick effect. Disney’s Bob Iger has ended his company’s anti-L.A. Times policy — critics and writers from that publication will now be invited to attend press screenings and lah-dee-lah-lah, and so it’s basically olly olly in come free and back to business as usual.
The Last Jedi will now be seen and talked and buzzed about, Rian Johnson is officially back on the list of potential Best Director nominees, and Coco is now back in play as a Best Animated Feature contender.
Posted at 11:35 pm: So far the N.Y. Times, two film-focused websites, two filmmakers and three critic-journalists have reportedly declared an intention to avoid screenings of Disney films and/or not write about same in any context or capacity — The A.V. Club and Flavorwire, and Washington Post pop-culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg, Boston Globe critic Ty Burr and yours truly. Two directors, Ava Duvernay and Rod Lurie, have also pledged on social media to avoid Disney films. This is in response to Disney having locked out the L.A. Times from screenings of Disney films, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Those four critics groups threatening to boycott Disney in terms of year-end critics awards isn’t a tough enough gesture to influence Disney decisively, especially considering that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a critic-proof franchise installment aimed at Joe and Jane Popcorn. The only threat that has real teeth is critics declaring en masse that they won’t attend critics screenings or write about Disney films, period. Without the threat of that en masse response, Disney’s Bob Iger will just shrug this off.
Okay, Coco (Disney/Pixar, 11.22) might suffer in terms of Best Animated feature consideration if the critics blackball it award-wise, and maybe Beauty and the Beast could suffer also. But the only real pressure will come from critics declining to write about The Last Jedi.
11:57 am: N.Y. Times statement, released a few minutes ago: “The New York Times will not attend preview screenings of Disney films until access is restored to The Los Angeles Times. A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like is meant to have a chilling effect. This is a dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”