Three weeks after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a controversial anti-abortion bill, media giants are threatening to stop filming projects in Georgia if the law takes effect.
The bill would make abortion illegal in the state of Georgia when doctors can start detecting a fetal heartbeat, which can be six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill is set to take effect on Jan. 1, unless it is overturned in a higher court. Georgia has long been a popular site for shooting film and television projects thanks to the tax breaks it gives; the state brought in $2.7 billion in revenue from such projects in 2018.
Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos was the first big name to take a stand on Tuesday, when he told Variety, “We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law... Should it ever come into effect, we'd rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Sarandos said Netflix will back the ACLU to fight the bill in court. But for the moment, “We’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to.” Netflix is currently filming the third season of “Ozark” in Georgia, among other projects.
On Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger was asked by Reuters if Disney would keep filming in Georgia if the law passes. Iger was blunt: “I rather doubt we will.”
Iger continued, “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.”
Disney shot scenes for recent superhero mega-hits like “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame,” among many other projects, in Georgia.
On Thursday, following Disney CEO Iger’s comments, WarnerMedia sent a statement to Reuters indicating it will “reconsider Georgia” if the law takes effect.
The statement reads:
"If the new law holds, we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions. 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.”
Following Netflix, Disney, and WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal joined the fray on Thursday afternoon with a statement sent to media.
The statement falls short of actually threatening to stop doing projects in Georgia, and some will likely see it as sounding more cautious than Netflix and Disney: “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. If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future.”
In a statement to media on Thursday afternoon, AMC Networks, which shoots “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, was clear: “If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will reevaluate our activity in Georgia.”
In a statement to TheWrap on Thursday evening, Sony indicated it is monitoring the situation in Georgia, though the company stopped short of saying it might pull out of the state if the law takes effect: “As the MPAA has noted, the outcome of the Georgia ‘Heartbeat Law’ and similar proposed legislation in other states, will be determined through the legal process. 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.”
In a statement to Variety on Thursday evening, CBS, which also owns Showtime, said in part, “We are monitoring the legislative and legal developments in Georgia with the full expectation that the process in the courts will play out for some time. For now, we will continue producing our series based there that have production orders for next season. If the law takes effect in Georgia or elsewhere, these may not be viable locations for our future production.”
The parent company of a big basket of networks including MTV, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon films a range of shows in Georgia, including Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. In a statement to TheWrap on Thursday, Viacom said, “We are closely monitoring the situation in Georgia and expect the legislation will be subject to significant legal challenges. Should the new law ever take effect, we will assess whether we will continue to produce projects in Georgia.”
The statement comes days before boardmembers of Viacom and CBS are reportedly set to meet to discuss a potential merger.
Earlier in May, a number of filmmakers tweeted out their opposition to the Georgia abortion ban. David Simon, the producer behind HBO hits like “The Wire,” tweeted out a statement on Thursday on behalf of his company Blown Deadline Productions, saying, “I can’t ask any female member of any film production with which I am involved to so marginalize themselves or compromise their inalienable authority over their own bodies. I must undertake production where the rights of all citizens remain intact.”
Mark Duplass, the actor and writer who runs Duplass Brothers Productions with his brother Jay, tweeted: “Don’t give your business to Georgia. Will you pledge with me not to film anything in Georgia until they reverse this backwards legislation?”
Yahoo Finance will continue to update this running list as more companies speak out. This post was last updated at 10:00pm EST on May 30.
Daniel Roberts is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance and closely covers media. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.