Hollywood studios, including Disney, Netflix, and WarnerMedia, mounted pressure this week on the state of Georgia in retaliation for a law protecting unborn babies with detectable heartbeats.
Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Wednesday it would be “very difficult” to continue filming in Georgia if the state’s “heartbeat law” takes effect. “I don’t see how it is practical for us to continue to shoot there,” he told Reuters.
Iger’s comments follow Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos’ statement on Tuesday that if the law is enacted, the streaming giant plans to “rethink our entire investment in Georgia.” Netflix will continue filming in the state for now, but Sarandos said it will form partnerships with and fund pro-abortion activist groups fighting the law in court.
WarnerMedia joined the chorus on Thursday, announcing in a statement that it would “reconsider” any new productions in Georgia if the law holds. By the end of Thursday, a host of other studios, including NBCUniversal, Sony, AMC, and Viacom, had issued similar statements.
Until this week, most major studios have remained quiet about the law, despite dozens of celebrities, entertainment executives, and producers—including filmmaker Ron Howard, Miramax CEO Bill Block, and actors Alyssa Milano and Jason Bateman—vowing to boycott the state if the law takes effect as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2020. Last week, the Lionsgate comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, starring Kristin Wiig, and Reed Morano’s Amazon series The Power pulled production from the state.
“It’s obviously an effort to intimidate Georgia and try to dissuade any other state from daring to restrict abortion,” said Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member, on his podcast The Briefing on Thursday.
But Netflix, Disney, and other major studios may or may not follow through on these threats, especially since an exodus from Georgia would cause untold economic damage for workers in the state and drastically cut into companies’ bottom lines.
For the past decade, the Peach State has lured television and film producers with generous tax incentives—producers can collect up to 30 percent in tax credits—attracting blockbusters like Disney’s Black Panther, Captain America: Civil War, and The Hunger Games series, along with popular television shows like Stranger Things, Ozark, and The Walking Dead. Productions like these have added an estimated 92,000 jobs and $2.7 billion in revenue to the state’s economy, earning it the nickname “Y’allywood.”
Hollywood has threatened to boycott the state before. In 2016, several major studios, including Disney, signaled they would leave the state if it passed a religious exemption law that gay rights groups opposed. Then-Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed the bill, which quieted the storm.
This month, Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who gained prominence in her unsuccessful bid for governor last year, losing to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, cautioned against a boycott, saying it is not the “most effective, strategic choice for change.” In response, producers J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele announced they still plan to shoot their upcoming HBO series Lovecraft Country in Georgia, but they will donate to pro-abortion activist groups.
Boycott or not, Hollywood’s liberal politics is in tension with its economic stake in Georgia. Many people anticipate the heartbeat law is in for a lengthy legal battle that could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Americans are far from united on abortion, and the entertainment industry appears willing to risk alienating huge swaths of the country where many people recognize that killing an unborn child is unconscionable.
So far, Kemp has given no indication he will capitulate to pressure from the entertainment industry. Earlier this month, he canceled a trip to Hollywood, Calif., and told a group of supporters his party stands behind the law despite opposition from “C-list celebrities.”
Now the opposition involves deeply invested A-listers. The coming year will show whose interests are more important: Hollywood elites with deep pockets and abortion affection, Georgia’s thriving economy, or unborn babies with beating hearts.