A test of the power of boycotts

Some states, including Ohio, like to give tax breaks and other forms of subsidies to film companies to make their films there. The case that is made is that making the film in the state brings jobs and revenue that more than compensates for the giveaways, and in addition the state gets lots of free publicity and visibility. At one time, states seemed to be in a bidding war for film companies, much to the latter’s delight.

Critics have suggested that these claims of economic benefits are at best dubious and that usually the costs far exceed the benefits. I have long suspected that what is often driving these decisions are star-struck state officials hoping to rub shoulders with film stars.

Many states have started cutting back on these subsidies but Georgia continues to do so and is ranked third in the nation in film production, behind California and New York. But Georgia is also one of those states that are passing anti-gay legislation and in a surprise move, major film studies Disney and Marvel have announced that they will boycott the state (thanks to reader kyoseki for the link) if the state passes as anti-gay bill that “protects religious officials from having to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, and would allow faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief.”” The makers of the popular series The Walking Dead later joined in the threatened boycott.

This is the kind of ‘religious liberty’ bill that some anti-gay states are passing to shield religious people when they discriminate against members of the LGBT community. The bill has already passed in the Georgia legislature but the Republican governor Nathan Deal, has not said if he will sign it.

Given that the studios are all about making money and care a lot about getting these subsidies, these moves were a bit of a surprise. My guess is that while studio executives may not care that much about the anti-gay bill, they would face anger and stiff opposition from cast and crew, and putting together production teams that would be willing to work in Georgia could prove to be a major hassle. If gay members of their crews were denied services in the state, that could lead to unwelcome publicity, not to mention walkouts and other stoppages that can be costly.

So it is likely good public relations for the film companies to get in front of the issue and reap the benefits. Let’s see if the governor vetoes the bill and if so, what the state legislature does in response.


  1. johnson catman says

    North Carolina legislators are showing their bigotry as well. The city of Charlotte recently passed an anti-discrimination bill that, among other things, allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they prefer. The state legislators would not even wait for the regular legislative session to begin; they called a special session just to address that ordinance. The state legislators, well the republicans, passed a bill outlawing local ordinances that are different from the state statutes. The democrats walked out in protest when the vote came up. The republican governor was only too happy to sign the bill. I hope that companies that do business in NC express their displeasure with the bill and apply pressure on the bigots in Raleigh.

  2. Some Old Programmer says

    The NFL is also threatening to boycott Georgia, which may make a stronger impression if the stereotype of US football enthusiasm in the South is to be trusted.

  3. says

    It’s not just major studios, which can be intermittent employers and financial generators.

    Indiana passed an anti-gay law in 2015, and GenCon (arguably the largest gaming convention) is threatening to leave the state once contractual obligations end in 2020. GenCon attracts 50,000 attendees annually and generates tens of millions of sales for local businesses and hotels. Some major corporations are making similar threats.



    Bigoted politicians will have to explain those lost jobs and business failures they caused.

  4. kyoseki says

    Variety are asking the very obvious question of why the studios were so quick to come out against Georgia when they already operate in places like Abu Dhabi & Singapore that have much worse records when it comes to LGBT rights.


    I see the MPAA have just come out against NC, but it hardly matters, they scrapped their film subsidies last year so nobody really shoots there any more anyway.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    @kyoseki, 4 & 6:

    why the studios were so quick to come out against Georgia when they already operate in places like Abu Dhabi & Singapore

    I can offer an answer to that: pick your battles. Local Christians? This is clearly one the studios believed they could win -- and per post 6, they were right. Now they get to crow about how virtuous they are AND carry on with business as usual. Foreign Muslims? Far more likely to stick to their principles and tell the interfering Yanks where they can shove it, which means the studios would actually have to do something, to change something, which isn’t good for business. Better to just leave it…

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