ATLANTA (WXIA) – Thanks to very generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a major production headquarters for television and motion pictures, with some of the largest grossing films and most popular television series over the past several years calling the state home.
One of the biggest production houses – Walt Disney Company, and its Marvel Studios subsidiary – have released a statement saying they will take their business elsewhere if “any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a clear indication of opposition to House Bill 757, which was passed by both houses of the Legislature last week.
The bill was initially passed in direct reaction and opposition to the US Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, according to one of its original sponsors, Sen. Greg Kirk (R-13th Dist, Americus) in February.
“The reason we need this bill in Georgia, there are millions – listen to me – millions more Georgians who hold that marriage is between a man and a woman than that marriage is to be between same sex couples,” Kirk said.
Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is one of the most anticipated films of the summer, with an expected box-office draw approaching $1 billion by the estimates of some industry watchers. The film is one of a number of Marvel Comics-based films calling Georgia home. Along with Civil War, last year’s Ant Man was filmed at Pinewood Studios Atlanta, and Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is currently filming at the Fayetteville studio.
Disney and Marvel had already indicated that major portions of the upcoming films Thor: Ragnarok and its untitled Spider-Man motion picture would be shot in metro Atlanta.
The Disney-Marvel statement could put all of that – along with millions of dollars of potential revenue to the state of Georgia and Georgia-based businesses in doubt.
Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.
AMC airs the number one-rated show on cable/satellite, The Walking Dead, which is among many television series produced in metro Atlanta. One of the network’s other hit shows, Halt & Catch Fire is also shot in north Georgia. The network issued a statement of its own Wednesday, urging Gov. Nathan Deal to reject the current version of the legislation.
Disney and Marvel join other large businesses both headquartered here and those doing business here, including Virgin Group, Coca-Cola, Intel, Dow Chemical, Apple, Delta Air Lines, SalesForce, Microsoft, Unilever, SecureWorks, and many others in opposing HB 757.
Late last week, the NFL suggested that while Atlanta was on the “short list” to host the upcoming Super Bowl LIV in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, if Gov. Deal were to sign HB 757, the League may be forced to rethink that consideration.
Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank very quickly joined that chorus in opposing HB 757, as did the owners of the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves.
In the past, the NCAA has voiced opposition to similarly worded legislation in Georgia and other states, and threatened to withhold the Final Four as well as the College Football Championship. As of the present, the 2020 Final Four is scheduled to be played in Atlanta, as is the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship.
We took the movie studios’ concerns to State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29th Columbus), who co-sponsors the bill.
“I guess with respect to Disney I’ll be waiting for them to close Walt Disney World since Florida has a very similar statute,” he said.
McKoon believes corporate criticism is more about public relations than public lobbying.
“It just highlights again how a lot of these corporate interests aren’t really looking at the bill and what it does. They’re taking these opportunities for, frankly, cheap public relations,” he said.
However the boycott is from more than movie makers. Conventions and even the NFL have taken a stand against the bill. McKoon says they’re bluffing.
“Nine of out he last ten Super Bowls were played in states with similar laws. Six of the last NCAA football championships were played in states with similar laws. This is clearly not a bill that is going to have a negative economic impact,” he said.
When asked if he’s willing to bet the billions of dollars the state sees from the movie industry on the belief, McKoon replied, “I am willing to bet that just like the thirty-one other states that have strong religious freedom laws, Georgia will see the exact result which is our people will be more free and there will not be a negative economic impact.”