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Georgia’s Potential LGBT Discrimination Law: Film Industry’s Boycott Could Cost Hollywood Millions

Georgia's Potential LGBT Discrimination Law: Film Industry's Boycott Could Cost Hollywood Millions

Numerous studios showed their support for gay rights today, as the Weinstein Company joined Disney, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Netflix, Open Road, Sony and Lionsgate in announcing they would boycott shooting in Georgia if a controversial bill was passed. The proposed actions were based around whether Governor Nathan Deal would sign the Free Exercise Protection Act (HB 757), a bill that would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to LGBT individuals. On the surface, this may seem like a token gesture from Hollywood. In reality, Georgia has become an integral part of Hollywood’s film and television production output, saving the industry tens of millions of dollars a year in production costs. 

Georgia is not the only state that offers a 30% rebate to film and television productions, but they are one of the only states left that extends that kickback to include above-the-line talent, like actors and directors. So for example, one of the reasons a film like "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" choose to shoot in Atlanta, rather than New York, which also offers a 30% rebate, is because Paramount not only saved 30% on production costs, but also got 30% back on the millions of dollars they spent paying director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and the other big name cast members. 

Over the last two to three years, states like Massachusetts, Louisiana and Michigan — the only three states that rivaled Georgia in kickbacks — have all significantly scaled back, capped or eliminated their states’ tax incentive programs. The result is that a record number of film and television shows, 158 productions, shot in Georgia in 2015, with 75-80% of those in Atlanta.  
Georgia is also financially attractive to Hollywood studios because it is a Right to Work state, which means that they do not need to hire union crews. This is a savings that goes beyond the difference in salaries, but saves Hollywood from negotiating with powerful unions about how many people they hire and what they will have to pay into locals’ pension and welfare funds. One other attractive element is Georgia does not have tough restrictions on hiring local crew. The is incredibly important and attractive to top stars, directors and department heads who rely heavily upon, and are incredibly loyal to, their close-knit crews. 

Not surprisingly, a whole industry and infrastructure has grown up around this level of production in Atlanta. Pinewood Studios, which has been home to big-budget films like "Captain America: Civil War," "Ant-Man," and now "Guardians of Galaxy 2," has grown to include 11 enormous, fully equipped sound stages, 400,000 square feet of workshop, office and production support facilities, and they have even built backlots that include forests and rivers.

Possibly no individual is more invested in Georgia production than Tyler Perry, who owns the 200,000 square foot Tyler Perry Studios, which includes sets and offices. Last year, the playwright-turned-media mogul paid $26 million for 488-acre Fort McPherson Army Base, where he is building an even bigger production facility. Meanwhile, major New York vendors, like Haddad’s (the major supplier of trailers and trucking) and Gotham Sound have set up shop in Atlanta to meet their clients’ growing needs in Atlanta.

According to the state’s own analysis, the film and television industry created $6 billion dollars in economic impact for the state in 2015, up from $5.1 billion in 2014.  

When Indiewire called Governor Nathan Deal’s office for comment about the potential economic impact of him signing the bill that is headed for his desk, his press office stated that "the Governor doesn’t comment on pending legislation."

While not directly addressing economic impact of the Hollywood pulling out of Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is far less reserved in addressing the potential dire costs of signing the Free Exercise Protection Act (HB 757). "This legislation will irreparably damage our economy and diminish the City of Atlanta’s standing as the business and cultural center of the Southeast," the mayor said in a statement. "Nearly every corporate, non-profit, academic leader and entrepreneur I’ve spoken with is concerned that its passage will harm their client relationships and their ability to hire world-class talent in Atlanta. As one of the five most visited cities in the United States, I am also gravely concerned about the negative impact this legislation has on the City of Atlanta’s ability to compete for conventions and major events such as the Super Bowl, which will be worth billions to our economy in the future."

Watch the trailer for "Ant-Man" below:

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Dennis Harvey

It will be interesting to see how Tyler Perry addresses this…if he does. He’s got a lot of "faith-based" fans who probably count on him being…uh, neutral on the subject.


Brian, Kevin, and MDL: I would suggest taking the time to actually read the bill before commenting on it. Under this bill, "faith-based" organizations, such as churches and religious schools or associations, would not be required to provide social, educational or charitable services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”

Faith-based organizations also would not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Finally, it includes much of the language found federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion.
However, it adds that it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”

The point would be to protect faith-based organizations from not having to act against it’s own religious beliefs. For example, under this bill, a Catholic church wouldn’t have to provide birth control to its receptionist or be forced to hire a Buddhist to teach Sunday School. The bill doesn’t apply to businesses who want to refuse service to gay people. Educate yourself!


Wow, tell Muslims, Catholics, Christians, etc. that they have to accept LGBT. This country was founded on religious freedom. No was has the right to say otherwise.

Julia Mae

Let’s ask the question another way. If the local KKK wants to hire my catering service for a big rally, do I have the right as a Christian of conscience to to tell them I won’t because I will do nothing to advance an agenda of hate? Do I have to lose my business, my way of feeding my family or do something reprehensible to my belief system?

This isn’t such an easy question in terms of the Constitution and religious freedom.

I fought for gay rights all my adult life. But that doesn’t mean I can condone forcing my beliefs on those whose sincere religious convictions lead them to believe they cannot serve that community.


What’s worse; telling a business that they cannot discriminate against customers and employees or telling employees and customers that going forward businesses are now allowed to discriminate against individuals under the protection of ‘religious liberty’? Should be a no brainer. Religious liberty ends where discrimination begins.


In response to Marcus’ statement above, I think you’ve missed the point. This is not about gay marriage. This about discrimination and prejudice against a section of the popluation…married or single is not the point. If you’re gay it allows anyone to to discriminate against you. This country was built on a strict philosophy of separation of church and state. In the everyday commerce and business of day-to-day life, to allow anyone to refuse service because they are gay is outright discrimination. Next they will want separate drinking fountains or seating areas. If the Civil Rights movement taught us anything…(especially in the south) treating people as "less than" or "ubdesirable" is an acting to basic civil liberties of citizens protected by our Cobstitution. If your faith requires you to hate, perhaps it’s time to question whether that faith is truly practicing love, compassion and treating your fellow man/woman as you would want to be treated. Isn’t that the singular most important message or belief in most hydro-Christian teachings?? According to the Bible, Jesus broke against the teachings of the time to break bread with tax collectors and prostitutes, I doubt he would be pleased with a business who would humiliate and discriminate another human being.


In response to the above comment… In addition to religious institutions, this law will provide protection to individuals and businesses who discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. A restaurant doesn’t want to serve someone because you believe being gay is wrong? You wouldn’t have to. So, no, this isn’t about churches and marriage.

I think it’s wonderful that film studios and big businesses are hitting back at this hateful and disgusting law.

Hope that clears things up.

Markus Ervin

I’m all for progress but I didn’t think any organization was compelled to marry everyone that requested it anyway. It doesn’t make sense to get married in a church that doesn’t want you to get married, seems like a big damper on the ceremony. If it was regarding gay people’s right to get married in Georgia, I would ask how a Hollywood boycott could even effect it, but I’d still support it, but since this is just about the letting gay people get married in the churches that would least respect their love, I find it ridiculous. This is about belief, not law, don’t churches have the right to turn down a Muslim marriage? Why aren’t people up in arms about that? If the faiths conflict, just find another church. Are people getting marriage in those churches just to antagonize and turn up a storm? If you plan to make your marriage ceremony a good one, than this bill has nothing to do with you, no matter your orientation and faith you want a church to accept you willingly, not begrudgingly.

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