Last year, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he listened with “somewhat of an open mind” as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia “made an impassioned plea to me to consider building Disneyland” in the Middle Eastern country. He apparently isn’t extending the same courtesy to the people of Georgia.
Saudi Arabia is one of the worst human rights violators in the world, known in 2018 for the October murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and is a very dangerous place for any religious minority. Despite that, the Disney executive paid lip service to the oppressive country.
However, on the heels of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signing into law a bill banning abortion after an embryonic heartbeat is detectable, which is roughly six weeks into pregnancy, Iger told Reuters it would be “very difficult” for the entertainment empire to continue working in the Peach State.
As conservative writer Ben Shapiro pointed out, Iger’s comments are an obvious PR move that comes with virtually no consequences, because it’s unlikely the Georgia bill won’t be struck down.
Iger’s words also ring pretty hollow, considering he at least claimed to entertain the Saudi prince’s request and has for years done business in China, a nation currently throwing its Muslim citizens into re-education camps and continuing to persecute Christians.
Nevertheless, the 68-year-old mogul seems overly concerned with what the people of Georgia decide to do with the laws in their state. He told Reuters, “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now, we are watching it very carefully.”
“I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there,” he added, should the law be implemented in Georgia, known as the “Hollywood of the South.”
It’s worth noting Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” as well as “Black Panther” were both filmed in the southern state, which offers attractive tax incentives to production studios looking to shoot movies and TV shows there.
In fiscal year 2018 alone, Georgia was home to more than 450 film and TV productions, bringing with it $2.7 billion of direct spending in the state. And in fiscal year 2017, entertainment projects generated a whopping $9.5 billion in economic impact in Georgia.
Iger, though, isn’t alone in his threat to pull out of Georgia — a movement started by actor and activist Alyssa Milano, who in a letter to Kemp described the bill, which isn’t scheduled to go into effect until next year, as “dangerous and deeply flawed.”
In addition to a handful of smaller production houses and celebrities, Netflix threatened this week to stop filming in Georgia, if the pro-life law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos told Variety the legislation would leave women “severely restricted.”
“It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to,” he explained. “Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
At least one production house, the faith-based Pure Flix, plans to continue filming in the Peach State. During a recent interview with Faithwire, Pure Flix CEO Greg Gudorf said the Christian company plans to continue producing its projects in Georgia, calling the state “a great place to film.”