Major film studios threaten to boycott Georgia over abortion law

WarnerMedia, Sony Pictures and NBCUniversal on Thursday joined a growing number of major studios threatening to pull their productions out of Georgia should a controversial abortion law in the southern US state go into effect. "We will watch the situation closely and if the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions," WarnerMedia, which encompasses HBO, Turner and Warner Bros., said in a statement to AFP. "As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine how and where to shoot any given project." NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and AMC Networks also warned that should the abortion bill go into effect, that would impact their choice for filming locations. "We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court," NBCUniversal said in a statement to AFP. "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future." A spokesman for Sony said the company would keep an eye on legal challenges to the abortion law and act accordingly. - Major production hub - "We will continue to monitor that process in close consultation with our filmmakers and television showrunners, talent and other stakeholders as we consider our future production options," the spokesman said. Netflix was the first major studio to step forward earlier this week and criticize the abortion legislation, saying that, should the law come into effect, "we'd rethink our entire investment in Georgia." Other studios have since followed suit, with Disney chief executive Bob Iger saying he would find it "very difficult" to continue filming in the state if the abortion law goes into effect. Known as the Hollywood of the South or Y'allywood, Georgia in recent years has become the country's third-largest production hub after Los Angeles and New York, thanks to tax credits of up to 30 percent -- among the most generous in the world -- it offers to movie and TV production companies. Should the television and film industry decide to snub Georgia as a filming location, it would be a huge blow to the state, which last year reported some 92,000 jobs and an economic impact of more than $9 billion from productions there. Among movies filmed in the state is WarnerMedia's "The Conjuring 3," the third installment of the supernatural horror movie. On the television side, Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams' "Lovecraft Country," an HBO television horror series based on Matt Ruff's novel of the same name, is set to shoot in the state. Disney for its part has filmed a number of blockbusters there, including "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Endgame," while Netflix has filmed such television hits as "Stranger Things" and "Ozark." AMC's flagship series "The Walking Dead," is also filmed in Georgia. - 'Do the right thing' - But the cozy relationship between Hollywood and Georgia looks set to crumble in light of the abortion law signed on May 7 by the state's Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Under the "fetal-heartbeat bill," which goes into effect next year, abortion would be banned as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law has prompted mounting calls by activists, actors and others in the film industry to boycott the state. "Georgia stands to lose Netflix & Disney," tweeted Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who nearly defeated Kemp in mid-term election in November. "This means lost jobs for carpenters, hair dressers, food workers & 100s of small businesses grown right here," she added. Michael Taylor, a film producer and head of the University of Southern California's Media Institute for Social Change, said he was heartened to see Hollywood standing "on the right side of the issue." "I don't know that it's a good financial decision for them... but I think sometimes you have to do the right thing as opposed to the financially prudent thing," he told AFP. "Most people in town -- certainly at the studios and I put myself in this category as well -- thought that this was an issue that was settled with Roe v Wade," he added. "And when you see states trying to undo that, I think the right thing to do is to take a position and take your money elsewhere." Apart from Georgia, several other US states, including Alabama and Louisiana, have adopted laws restricting abortion. These states hope the bills will ultimately lead to a reversal of the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court ruling Roe v Wade that made abortion legal nationwide. Lured by tax breaks, many Hollywood movies are made in Georgia Netflix was the first major studio to step forward and criticize Georgia's abortion legislation, saying that should the law come into effect, "we'd rethink our entire investment" in the state A man wears an "I stand with Planned Parenthood" shirt at a protest against recently passed abortion ban bills at the Georgia State Capitol building, on May 21, 2019 in Atlanta Protesters hold signs as they rally in support of Planned Parenthood and protest a state decision that would effectively halt abortions by revoking the center's license to perform the procedure, near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, May 30, 2019