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Georgia Faces Boycotts From TV Networks and Movie Studios Over Anti-Gay Bill

Hollywood exodus could cost the state billions

The Walking Dead is among the 248 movies and TV shows filmed in Georgia during fiscal year 2015. AMC

In recent years, Georgia has become a mecca for TV and film production, as tax incentives have lured movies and TV series away from neighboring states like Florida and even California.

But that could all come to an end if Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal passes a religious liberty bill that will limit the rights of the state's LGBT residents.

The bill, called the Free Exercise Protection Act, would allow faith-based organizations in the state to deny services to gay people. Supporters claim it would protect religious freedoms, but organizations like the Human Rights Campaign warn that the bill "opens the door to discrimination in social services and employment against a wide range of Georgians."

Hollywood studios, networks and execs who conduct business in the state have urged Deal to veto the bill, and some are threatening to move production elsewhere if it passes.

On Wednesday, Disney, Viacom and AMC Networks spoke out against the bill. Disney, which filmed several Marvel movies—including Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2—at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta, threatened to stop filming in Georgia if the law passes. Viacom and AMC—which films TV's No. 1 series, The Walking Dead, in Georgia—haven't yet indicated if they will do the same.

Today, most of the other major Hollywood companies, including Time Warner (whose CNN is based in Atlanta), 21st Century Fox, Comcast (which includes NBCUniversal), Sony Pictures, CBS, Discovery Communications, Lionsgate and Starz, released statements opposing the law and urging Deal to veto it. The Weinstein Company said it will move production of an upcoming Richard Pryor biopic, directed by Lee Daniels and starring Eddie Murphy and Oprah Winfrey, set to shoot in Georgia later this year if the bill passes.

While many of those media companies remained noncommittal about a Georgia boycott, more than 30 Hollywood heavyweights—including Lee Daniels, Aaron Sorkin, Ryan Murphy and Greg Berlanti—released a letter through the Human Rights Campaign today vowing they will not work in Georgia if the bill passes. 

Deal, who must decide by May 3 whether to veto the bill, has not indicated how he intends to proceed.

Deal's decision could affect billions of dollars in state revenue. During the 2015 fiscal year, film and TV productions spent more than $1.7 billion in Georgia and accounted for $6 billion in economic impact, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The 248 movies and series shot in the state during that time include TV shows The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries and Sleepy Hollow as well as movies Captain America: Civil War, Miracles From Heaven, and the latest Divergent movie, Allegiant.

Georgia has more to worry about than just Hollywood. The NFL warned last week that the bill's passage could affect whether Atlanta gets to host the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.

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