Disney and Marvel will leave Georgia if Deal signs 'religious liberty' bill; AMC condemns it as well

Edy Ganem was reduced to a recurrent role and is no longer featured as part of the "Devious Maids" primary crew. CREDIT: Lifetime

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Edy Ganem was reduced to a recurrent role and is no longer featured as part of the "Devious Maids" primary crew. CREDIT: Lifetime

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Wednesday, March 23, 2016

While local entertainment groups are quietly lobbying Governor Nathan Deal behind the scenes to veto the "religious liberty" bill, international production companies are being more outspoken.

Disney and its Marvel subsidiary today explicitly said it will pull out of the state of Georgia if the bill goes through. Marvel is shooting "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" at Pinewood Studios following "Ant Man" and "Captain America: Civil War." The third "Thor" movie is set to go there after "Guardians" is complete. These are types of films that often exceed $100 million per movie.

ABC Studios, which is part of Disney, also shoots Lifetime's "Devious Maids" at Eagle Rock Studios, which is in its fourth season of production here. And a pilot for an ABC show "Hail Mary" is also currently shooting.

“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 Disney spokesman said on Wednesday.


Credit: Rodney Ho

icon to expand image

Credit: Rodney Ho

Josh Berman, a TV producer who shot "Drop Dead Diva" here for six years, said he would certainly pull out himself if the bill went through. He has a pilot for ABC "Notorious" shooting here now and is expecting to work here again this summer with Star Jones on her project "Satan's Sisters" for VH1.

AMC Networks, which produces "The Walking Dead" and "Halt and Catch Fire" for AMC and "Rectify" for Sundance in metro Atlanta, released this statement: "As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible. We applaud Governor Deal's leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well." The company did not say whether it would pull out of the state if the bill passes.

The Motion Picture Association of America said Monday it doesn't believe Deal will sign the bill, which allows faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to those who violate their "sincerely held religious belief." It also protects religious officials from officiating same-sex marriages and won't force people from even having to attend one.

"We are confident that Governor Deal will not allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Georgia," said Vans Stevenson, MPAA senior vice president of state government affairs. Deal has until May 3 to make a decision though it's fair to say he probably won't wait that long.

Georgia last year became the third largest state behind only California and New York in film production, thanks largely to generous tax credits passed in 2008. Deal has been one of the state's biggest cheerleaders and has encouraged companies to build infrastructure here. More than 10 film and TV studios have popped up since 2008 and dozens of ancillary companies have built up, including catering, props and hair and make up.

Critics believe this bill codifies discrimination against LGBT while addressing problems that doesn't exist. (Religious officials already can't be forced to officiate same-sex marriages.) Supporters say the bill simply ensures people who don't approve of gay marriage won't be discriminated against themselves.