Sony, Viacom, CBS, Showtime, NBC Universal, AMC Network Join Growing Studio Sentiment Not to Work in Georgia Should Anti-Abortion Law Go Into Effect

Then the dam broke.

Sony Pictures, Viacom, CBS, Showtime, NBC Universal and AMC Networks, which has produced “The Walking Dead” in Georgia for more than 10 years, May 30 joined a bandwagon of Hollywood studios, producers and actors who have said they would cease doing business should the state’s new anti-abortion law go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation on May 8 making it unlawful for a woman to have an abortion six weeks after pregnancy. Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.

The issue is unique to Georgia, which has become a prolific location for movie and TV show production, reportedly  accounting for 40 current content production outside of California and New York.

“If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will re-evaluate our activity in Georgia,” AMC said in a statement.

The network, which was one of the first to produce content in the Peach state with “Walking Dead,” said similar laws passed in other states have been challenged and so would the measure in Georgia.

“This is likely to be a long and complicated fight and we are watching it all very closely,” AMC said.

A spokesperson from Comcast-owned NBC Universal said the media company doesn’t expect the law to go into effect, but is ready to act if required.

“If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future,” said the spokesperson.

A Sony Pictures rep echoed the sentiment saying the Culver City, Calif.-based studio would continue to monitor the situation and “would consider our future production options” if warranted.

WarnerMedia Entertainment to Boycott Georgia Should Anti-Abortion Ban Become Law

WarnerMedia Entertainment May 30 joined Disney and Netflix in pledging to withdraw movie and TV show productions from Georgia should the state’s new anti-abortion law go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Gov. Brian Kemp May 8 signed legislation outlawing women from terminating their pregnancy six weeks after becoming pregnant. Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.

“We operate and produce work in many states and within many countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” WarnerMedia said in a media statement. “We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds, we will reconsider Georgia as the home of any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine where and how to shoot any given project.”

In addition to CNN and Turner in Atlanta, WarnerMedia has significant content production in Georgia, which has been home to a hotbed of film and TV production for years due to generous tax incentives.

Disney to Join Growing Hollywood Bandwagon Ceasing Operations in Georgia Should Anti-Abortion Ban Take Effect

The Walt Disney Co. could join Netflix and other Hollywood actors and production companies who say they would stop working in Georgia should a recently signed anti-abortion law take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Speaking to Reuters, Disney CEO Bob Iger was asked if Disney would continue to make movies (Black Panther) and TV shows in the state should statewide legislation outlawing a woman to abort her pregnancy after six weeks become law. Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation on May 8.

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“I think many people who work for us will not want to work [in Georgia] and we have to heed their wishes in that regard,” Iger said. “Right now we’re watching it very carefully. I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there.”

Disney’s possible departure from Georgia could be a major blow to the state’s lucrative film business, which employs thousands and generates billions in annual revenue by offering studios generous tax incentives.

In addition to Panther, Marvel Studios Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, among others, filmed in the Peach state.

Disney’s possible pullout of Georgia is reminiscent of a similar ploy when Georgia lawmakers attempted to ban same-sex marriage within the state.

Disney came out against the proposed legislation, claiming it was an affront to personal civil liberty.

“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,” a spokesperson said at the time.

Then Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal quietly vetoed the legislation.

Netflix Reconsidering Georgia Film, TV Productions

Netflix reportedly is reconsidering its massive investment in movie and TV show productions in the state of Georgia after Gov. Brian Kemp signed an anti-abortion law there on May 8.

The action by the SVOD behemoth, which has more than 150 million subscribers globally and spends tens of millions on productions in Georgia, could be a catalyst for Hollywood studios to up heretofore tepid responses to the legislation.

Georgia’s anti-abortion law, which goes into effect in 2020, would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — a timeline by which the law’s critics say most woman wouldn’t know they’re pregnant. Currently the ban is after 20 weeks.

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“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” CCO Ted Sarandos said in a statement first reported by The Wrap. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court.”

Sarandos reiterated that until the law actually goes into effect, Netflix would continue to produce content in Georgia, while supporting partners and artists who choose not to.

“Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia,” he said.

Current Netflix productions in the Peach state include original series “Ozark,” “Insatiable,” and feature film Holidate, among others.

“Ozark” star Jason Bateman has already stated publicly that he would no longer work in Georgia should the law go into effect.

“If the ‘heartbeat bill’ makes it through the court system, I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women’s rights,” Bateman said in a statement.

Georgia Gov. Kemp Attempts to Mollify Hollywood After Signing Anti-Abortion Law

After scuttling a planned May 22 visit to Hollywood studios in Los Angeles, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp the next day visited local production facilities to thank them for doing business in the Peach state.

Thanks to lucrative tax incentives, film and TV productions employ more than 5,000 people in Georgia, reportedly generating a $9.5 billion fiscal economic impact in 2017, including $2.7 billion in direct spending.

The state trailed only Canada as primary production home for the 100 top-grossing domestic films in 2017. It was home to more than 455 productions in 2018, according to the governor’s office.

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The PR tour was in response to growing backlash following Kemp’s May 7 signature of an anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” that prohibits a woman from terminating a pregnancy after six weeks — a time period before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Georgia currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, which goes into effect in 2020, would also allow authorities to investigate women who miscarry.

While initial reaction in Hollywood was limited compared to a previous attempt by Georgia lawmakers to ban same-sex marriage, producers, directors and actors are beginning to speak up.

Actress/activist Alyssa Milano got the ball rolling on social media, delivering a letter to Kemp signed by 50 celebrities who vowed to boycott the state if the bill was signed into law.

Actor Jason Bateman said he would no longer work in the state, which is the production location (Lake Lanier) to his Netflix original series, “Ozark,” among others.

Producers of Amazon Prime Video original series “The Power” reportedly have stopped scouting the state for locations in response to the bill.

“We feel we have to stand up for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, and so while this is not a decision we have taken lightly, we feel strongly that it is the right one at this point in time,” Jane Featherstone and Naomi De Pear, said in a statement.

Kristen Wiig and her creative team behind Bridesmaids confirmed to CNN that production of her new comedy, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, had pulled out of Georgia in response to the bill.

CNN reported that Christine Vachon, CEO of Killer Films; David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and “The Deuce”; and Mark Duplass of Duplass Brothers Productions have all said they will not film in Georgia.

Separately, directors J.J. Abrams and Jordon Peele issued a statement in support of “women in Georgia,” adding that they would donate episodic fees of their new series, “Lovecraft Country,” to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia, an organization seeking to reform state elections.

Kris Bagwell, who runs EUE Screen Gems in Atlanta, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he recently lost a Netflix movie that would have brought about 300 jobs.

“The passage of this law threatens to destroy a significant portion of 11 years of goodwill between Georgia and the national film and television production industry,” Bagwell said. “Isn’t the first rule of job creation ‘Don’t shoot the jobs you already created?’”

Kemp, in response, contends he’s keeping a campaign promise to stop abortions.

“We value and protect innocent life in Georgia — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk,” the governor told a recent GOP convention in Savannah.

Georgia Looking to Tax Netflix, Other Streaming Services

Georgia is looking at becoming only the fourth state in the country to tax digital entertainment services such as Netflix, Spotify, e-Books and video games.

The proposed 4% tax would add 52 cents, or $6.24 annually, to Netflix’s $12.99 monthly plan. Similar taxes are already on the books in Hawaii, Washington and Pennsylvania. A 9% “amusement services” tax drafted by Chicago in 2015 was upheld last summer by a local circuit court. The ruling is under appeal.

Georgia, which initiated sales taxes for online purchases on Jan. 1, seeks to use the tax revenue for the construction of high-speed Internet service in rural areas. About 16% of rural households in the state reportedly lack broadband access.

“This is not a new tax,” Jay Powell, a Republican representative from Camilla and author of the bill, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Technology is changing. The bottom line is, I’m getting movies, sports, news and all the things I’ve always gotten, but I’m getting them via a different medium, which is streaming services as opposed to cable TV.”

Traditional pay-TV and telecommunication services operating in Georgia currently pay fees ranging from 5% to 7%.

Newly-elected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp isn’t in favor of the tax. Perhaps mindful of Hollywood’s $1.5 billion annual spending in the state on movies and TV show productions (Netflix’s “Ozark” is filmed at Lake Lanier), Kemp, who championed President Trump’s corporate tax cut, said he would prefer alternative options.

“My first inclination is not to look at tax increases to pay for this,” Kemp told Georgia Public Broadcasting. “If we’re going to have some sort of offset, I’d be open to looking at that. I don’t know that raising taxes is the answer for me.”

Georgia’s 2019 legislative session ends in April.