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Disney reverses ban on L.A. Times critics from screenings

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2015, file photo, visitors walk toward the Sleeping Beauty's Castle in the background at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. Four prominent film critics groups announced Nov. 7, 2017, they will bar Walt Disney Co. films from receiving awards consideration over the company’s decision to bar the Los Angeles Times from advance screenings of its films and access to its talent. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
November 07, 2017 - 12:43 PM

LOS ANGELES - The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday lifted its ban of Los Angeles Times reporters and critics from its press screenings after a widespread backlash prompted several media outlets to announce their own boycotts of Disney movies.

In a statement Tuesday, Disney said it was restoring access to the newspaper after "productive discussions with the newly installed leadership" at the Los Angeles Times. Disney had barred the Times from its screenings after the paper published a two-part investigative series on the company's business dealings in Anaheim, California, where Disneyland is.

Disney's punitive measures against the Times led to many outlets refusing advance coverage of the studio's films, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe and The A.V. Club. Four prominent film critics groups announced Tuesday that they would bar Disney films from receiving awards consideration

The ban's withdraw Tuesday ended an unusual clash between Hollywood's arguably most powerful studio and the media outlets that regularly write about its movies.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics all said that wouldn't consider Disney films for their year-end awards. The critics groups noted that it was "admittedly extraordinary" to "take any action that might penalize film artists for decisions beyond their control."

"But Disney brought forth this action when it chose to punish The Times' journalists rather than express its disagreement with a business story via ongoing public discussion," the statement continued. "Disney's response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included."

The New York Times said in a statement Tuesday that it wouldn't attend preview screenings of Disney films while the LA Times can't, saying Disney's move is a "dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest."

Disney on Friday said that the Times series in September detailing what it characterized as a complicated and increasingly tense relationship between Anaheim and the company showed "a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards." It added that the Times published a "biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda."

Daniel Miller, the Times reporter who wrote the series, tweeted that "Disney never asked for a correction." The newspaper declined further comment.

With the ban concluded, critics said they would return to business as usual. Disney's upcoming films are the Pixar release "Coco" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

"See you guys at the Coco screening," wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott.

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Associated Press Writers Patrick Mairs and Tali Arbel contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
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