Could MARVEL STUDIOS Have a Georgia Problem?

Georgia state welcome sign
Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios has still yet to announce the 'what, when and where' of their two 2020 productions, with the clock ticking on the when as the calendar closes in on 11 months until the May 1 release (moved up to late April each of the last two years).

As to the where, that situation may have also gotten more complicated.

Dozens of movie celebrities and filmmakers have announced that they will cancel and avoid film work in Georgia because of the state government’s recently-passed “heartbeat” bill.

The new legislation, which Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently signed into law and which will go into effect in January 2020 if not blocked in some way, will allow doctors to perform abortions only before fetal polar cardiac activity - characterized by the bill’s controversial title as a fetal “heartbeat” - is detected, which is usually around six weeks gestation.

The law is expected to be challenged in court, but Kemp mocked the Hollywood boycott earlier this week. “We’re elected to do what’s right — and standing up for precious life is always the right thing to do. We are the party of freedom and opportunity. We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk," Kemp said.

So far, Marvel and its parent company Disney are not among the entities threatening a boycott in reaction to Georgia’s new abortion regulation. But Disney has set a precedent for boycott activism in the state in the recent past — threatening in 2016 to pull its extensive film work from Georgia alongside Netflix after the state proposed a religious liberty bill that allowed refusal of service to LGBTQ people.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Class Photo
Marvel Cinematic Universe Class Photo
Credit: Marvel Studios

12 of Marvel Studios' 22 films were shot at Pinewood Studios’ locations, including the majority of their recent productions at the Atlanta location. Since 2015 they include that year’s Ant-Man (the first film ever to shoot there), 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.

Georgia has become a leading destination for Hollywood filmmakers ever since 2008, when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue signed tax-incentive legislation to lure the film industry to his state.

The tax cuts worked so well that Georgia has been No. 1 on FilmL.A.’s list of filming locations in the past, and is still the No. 1 U.S. state. In its 2018 report, FilmL.A. called Georgia’s tax incentive program the “most expensive” in North America, exceeding $800 million.

The 2016 boycott threat was in character for Disney and by extension Marvel Studios, who have long been leaders in advocating for LGBTQ equality. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Georgia “heartbeat” legislation and the divicive abortion debate should be assumed to be equivalent situations for the entertainment giants.

Credit: Marvel Studios

But whatever their decision and the public backing of it, it might put Disney and Marvel Studios between a rock and a hard place one way or another.

For one thing, with just 11 and 17 months to go before Marvel’s scheduled 2020 releases, the primary studio locations may have been booked long ago.

Marvel and Disney are also already coming off a seven-month odyssey in which they fired but then rehired James Gunn from directing the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 over offensive, politically incorrect Tweets from years ago.

And finally Marvel Studios employs a roster of high profile, politically outspoken stars, including but not limited to Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mark Ruffalo, and Don Cheadle.

If either of their 2020 films are/were scheduled for production in Atlanta sometime in 2019, they will likely have to deal with tackling the issue publicly in some fashion, even with the seven month gap before the law potentially goes into effect.

One possibility that might buy them some time: The Australian government just recently agreed to give Marvel Studios a whopping $17.1 million subsidy to film one of its next movies there, and while it has not been revealed what movie will film in Australia, if it does happen to be the May 2020 release, the studio might have some additional time to consider the Georgia issue and strategize.

And if Black Widow is one of their next two productions, as widely expected, that film seems a potential candidate to take advantage of Pinewood’s UK locations. 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and 2016’s Doctor Strange filmed at its Shepperton facility. 

Time recently reached out for comment on the Georgia legislation and their position on filming in the state, but Disney didn’t respond.

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