Entertainment & Arts

Georgia abortion: WarnerMedia joins Disney and Netflix in considering options

Avengers: Endgame Image copyright Disney/Marvel
Image caption Endgame has taken more than $2.7bn globally

A number of US media giants have publicly stated they will reconsider filming in Georgia if the state's strict new abortion law takes effect.

Disney, Netflix and WarnerMedia have all objected to the legislation, which would ban abortion after a foetal heartbeat can be detected.

The so-called "heartbeat bill" has caused a furious backlash in Hollywood and led to calls for a boycott.

Georgia makes billions of dollars from film and television productions.

The state's bill seeks to make abortion illegal as soon as a foetal heartbeat is detectable. In most cases, this is at the six-week mark of a pregnancy - before many women even know they are pregnant.

It is one of a number of states to pass abortion restrictions in the past year, but they are expected to face legal challenges.

What have the media firms said?

Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney says the law would make it "difficult" for the company to keep filming there.

Blockbusters like Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame, were recently shot in the state, due to its generous tax breaks for film productions.

However, Mr Iger said "many people who work for us will not want to work there" should the law go into effect.

"We will have to heed their wishes," he told Reuters.

WarnerMedia meanwhile said it would reconsider Georgia "if the new law holds", after Netflix announced on Tuesday it would "rethink" its productions in the state should the law take effect.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig have both condemned the new law, which effectively bans abortion

Earlier this week, Netflix said it would "rethink" its operations there with chief content officer Ted Sarandos explaining: "We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,"

He said the streaming giant would "work with the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and others to fight it in court."

What about the actors?

Meanwhile, stars including Amy Schumer, Ben Stiller, Christina Applegate, Laverne Cox and Alec Baldwin wrote to the governor saying they would "do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women".

Comedy actress and writer Kristen Wiig also confirmed to CNN that her new comedy had pulled out of filming in the state while the executive producers of a new Amazon show The Power said it was no longer scouting for filming locations in Georgia because of the controversial bill.

Actor Jason Bateman, who stars in the Netflix show Ozark and in HBO's The Outsider, which are both currently filming in Georgia, told The Hollywood Reporter: "I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women's rights".

"Right now we are watching it very carefully," said Disney's Bob Iger, adding he didn't "see how it's practical for us to continue to shoot there."

Image copyright Disney/Marvel
Image caption Georgia was used as a location for Black Panther

Disney's prospective withdrawal would be a huge blow to the state. Recently, Disney's Marvel Studios filmed portions of both Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame in Georgia.

Georgia - which offers up to 30% tax breaks - has become a magnet for film and TV productions, employing more than 90,000 people.

'Massive ramifications'

Website Film LA analysed a sample of the 100 top-grossing feature films released at the US box office in 2017 and found Georgia was tied for second place, behind California, as a location with the UK, each with 15 films in the top 100 in 2017.

British location manager Steve Mortimore has worked with both Disney and Netflix and scouted for films including World War Z, the forthcoming Wonder Woman sequel and Ridley Scott's All The Money in the World.

He told the BBC the clash over Georgia's abortion law could have "massive ramifications".

Aside from Georgia's generous tax breaks for filmmakers, he said, "they have trained so many people to work in the industry, and so many experts have moved there who will have to move away again".

Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell
Image caption Steve Mortimore scouted Glasgow as a stand-in for Philadelphia on World War Z, starring Brad Pitt

Speaking about Disney and Netflix's threats to pull out of Georgia entirely, he told the BBC: "I'd be surprised if they went ahead and pulled out unless they had a plan B or C.

"Those big Marvel films, they need huge spaces, 100,000 to 150,000 sq ft sound stages with all the facilities and they are limited. I know that Europe is absolutely fully booked up, there isn't anywhere else".

In 2014, the British-based Pinewood studios opened Pinewood Atlanta, spanning 700 acres and providing 18 sound stages. It has declined to comment on the news reports, but Mortimore said it could be be "very painful for them".

He claimed that London has now displaced Hollywood as the film industry's new capital, adding "the space just isn't available, people are queuing to film [in the UK] for the next three or four years".

"It's an opportunity for somewhere else," he said. "Maybe LA can step in. They have huge TV productions but its a chance to stick their flag in the sand and say they are a major hub for movies again, which they lost to London."

Louisiana abortion law

Recent productions based in Georgia include: Godzilla: King of Monsters, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Black Panther, Pitch Perfect 3, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Stranger Things, Ozark and The Walking Dead.

It is one of several US states to pass new, stricter laws on abortion, the latest being Louisiana.

The new law prevents abortions in almost all circumstances once an embryonic heartbeat can be detected.

Critics have pointed at what they see as an orchestrated challenge to a decades-old US Supreme Court ruling that protected a woman's right to choose an abortion.


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