Warner, NBCUniversal, Sony the latest to reconsider Georgia filming over abortion law
Staff 'will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes,' says Disney's Bob Iger
First it was Netflix. Now other major Hollywood studios say they may re-evaluate filming in Georgia if the state's restrictive abortion law goes into effect as scheduled Jan. 1. The state is known for its lucrative tax incentives for filming.
WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Walt Disney Co. followed the streaming service's lead this week with a deluge of statements, breaking a three-week silence from the big players in entertainment on the controversial law that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks.
"If the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions," read a statement from WarnerMedia Thursday.
Georgia is one of eight states to pass anti-abortion legislation this year for the purpose of inducing the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that established a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.
Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal unit said that it expects that many of the new laws will face court challenges, but added, "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision making on where we produce our content in the future."
On Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger told Reuters if Georgia's law is implemented, many people will not want to work in the state. Disney has filmed blockbuster movies such as Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame in Georgia, and it would be a blow to the state's efforts to create production jobs if the entertainment giant stopped filming there.
"I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully," Iger said in an interview ahead of the dedication for a new Star Wars section at Disneyland in California.
If the law takes effect, "I don't see how it's practical for us to continue to shoot there," he added.
Sony Pictures Entertainment took a slightly more cautious approach, saying through a spokesperson Thursday that the studio will continue to monitor the legal process in Georgia and other states with similar proposed legislation "in close consultation with our filmmakers and television show runners, talent and other stakeholders as we consider our future production options."
The state's tax credit has lured many film and TV productions. The industry is responsible for more than 92,000 jobs in Georgia, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, and some 455 productions were shot in Georgia in 2018, according to the state.
Some actors and producers have already said they will no longer work in Georgia because of the abortion law, but many of the large production companies have remained publicly silent.
Several high-profile creators, including J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, have kept productions in Georgia, but donated their salaries and fees to the American Civil Liberties Union and local groups fighting the legislation.
On Tuesday, Netflix Inc. said the streaming service would "rethink" its film and television production investment in Georgia if the law goes into effect.
In the meantime, Netflix will continue production there and work with groups that are fighting the law in U.S. courts.
With files from The Associated Press