LA Times: You can’t read our Thor review because Disney is mad
Studios commonly offer movie reviewers advance screenings of their movies so they have time to write their reviews (Ars included) before the movies become available to the general public. The Los Angeles Times is the paper of record for the Los Angeles metro area, so you’d expect its writers to have easy access to these movie screenings.
But in a Friday tweetstorm, LA Times writer Glenn Whipp said that Disney had banned the paper from screenings of movies like Thor: Ragnarok in retaliation for its critical coverage of Disney’s relationship with the city of Anaheim, home of Disneyland.
“The Los Angeles Times has been ‘put on pause’ by Disney, barring its reporters and critics from seeing its movies,” Whipp wrote. “Disney didn’t like the Times‘ recent two-part story detailing Disneyland’s business ties with the city of Anaheim.”
The charge doesn’t just come from one writer, either. “Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer the Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim,” said a statement on the LA Times website.
The first story details how Disney has received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of subsidies and tax exemptions in exchange for expanding its Disneyland facilities. For example, Disney got a 30-year exemption from ticket taxes in exchange for a $1 billion investment in a new Star Wars exhibit in Anaheim.
Disney once had a cozy relationship with Anaheim, but as the park has gotten more lucrative and the city’s demographics have changed, the relationship has deteriorated. Some parts of the city are struggling economically, and critics say that Disney’s generous tax breaks deprive the city of revenue it could use to tackle the city’s problems.
Anaheim is now 53 percent Hispanic, and according to the LA Times, “three of the four council candidates that Disney’s campaign spending in 2016 supported were white, while three of the four candidates who were targeted with negative campaigning by PACs with direct or indirect financial connections to Disney were Latino.”
Disney spent heavily to support Disney-friendly candidates in the 2016 election for the Anaheim city council. But two new Disney critics won seats on the council, enough to give Anaheim Mayor and Disney critic Tom Tait a majority.
Some of the campaigns were nasty. The LA Times reports that “a news release sent to area media outlets detailed a 2016 misdemeanor domestic violence case” involving the brother-in-law of one of the candidates Disney opposed.
The firm that sent the release counts Disney as a past client, the paper says, and has worked with Kris Murray, an Anaheim councilwoman who is seen as a Disney ally.
Murray also went on a European vacation with Disney government relations director Carrie Nocella “shortly after Murray was reelected to a second term in November 2014″—though Murray says she paid her own way on the trip.
We’ve asked Disney for comment about the story and will update if we get a response. The company is far from the first corporation to hold negative press coverage against journalists and cut off relationships—see examples ranging from Apple responding to Gizmodo’s coverage of the iPhone 4 leak or Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks revoking credentials for long-time ESPN NBA reporters—but this particular blacklisting could be painful considering the LA Times’ history of film coverage and Disney’s upcoming slate boasting things such as a new Star Wars film and plenty from the Marvel cinematic universe.
Author Timothy B. Lee