This week, North Carolina passed the most sweeping anti-LGBT bill in the country.
House Bill 2, signed into law by the state’s governor, Pat McCrory, on Wednesday evening, effectively repeals any existing non-discrimination ordinances enacted by local municipalities. In February, Charlotte voted to extend the city’s pre-existing non-discrimination protections to its transgender population. That would have allowed trans residents to use the bathroom that most closely corresponds their gender identity. McCrory called an “emergency session” of the state’s Congress to block the law—set to take effect April 1.
A smattering of corporations have spoken out against the legislation, including PayPal, Google, Dow Chemical, the NBA, the NCAA, and Apple. “Our future as Americans should be focused on inclusion and prosperity, and not discrimination and division,” the tech company, fronted by openly gay CEO Tim Cook, said in a statement. “We were disappointed to see Governor McCrory sign this legislation.”
In a Washington Post op-ed, Cook previously wrote that such discriminatory legislation is “bad for business.” “That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation—wherever it emerges,” he said. “I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.”
While these companies are speaking out against HB 2, it’s time for Hollywood to join them. After a “religious freedom” bill in Georgia cleared both the state House and Senate, Disney and Marvel threatened to boycott the Peach State, blocking future productions from filming there. In recent years, both “Ant-Man” and “Captain America: Civil War” were shot in Georgia, while “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is currently in production.
These sentiments were echoed by a coalition of actors and filmmakers who stood up to condemn the Georgia legislation, which is one signature away from becoming law. Out directors like Gus van Sant (“Milk”), Ryan Murphy (“Glee”), and Lee Daniels (“Empire”) urged Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill. In a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, they were joined by other notable industry figures—including Aaron Sorkin, Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, and Harvey Weinstein. In total, 30 signatories vowed to take their projects elsewhere.
This could have a huge impact on Georgia’s economy. In recent years, the state has become known as the “Hollywood of the South.” Currently, Georgia is the third most-popular filming location (behind New York and California), which brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year. According to Forbes, a big-budget production “translates to big bucks for any local economy,” as productions commonly spend around 60 percent of their budget on location.
North Carolina isn’t the industry leader that Georgia is, but it isn’t far behind. The state ranked 10th on the revenue list back in 2014, largely due to state tax breaks that have made it historically cheap to film in the Tar Heel state. Popular movies shot in North Carolina include “Forrest Gump,” “Days of Thunder,” “Iron Man 3,” “The Conjuring,” and “A Walk to Remember.” In fact, nearly every entry in the profitable Nicholas Sparks adaptation factory has been filmed in the state.
According to the North Carolina Film Office, a police drama from Fox is currently in production locally—“Shots Fired,” starring Richard Dreyfuss, Sanaa Lathan, and Helen Hunt—as well as a forthcoming “Dirty Dancing” remake with Abigail Breslin. According to a December report in the Hendersonville Lightning, the latter production (set to air on ABC) was estimated to “bring up to 1,225 temporary jobs to the Hendersonville area and spend $16 million.”
Although filmmaker Rob Reiner has pledged to boycott the state until North Carolina reinstates protections for LGBT citizens, House Bill 2 has yet to be met with the same widespread condemnation from Hollywood as Georgia’s religious freedom bill. Currently, 21st Century Fox, AMC, Amblin, CBS, Lionsgate, MGM, NBC, Netflix, Sony, Time Warner, and Viacom have all spoken out against the Georgia legislation. These companies were also joined by Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Delta, and the National Football League, who threatened to block Atlanta from hosting a Super Bowl.
Many of these businesses don’t have the same ties to North Carolina that they do in Deal’s state, but they are not without recourse. As Fusion points out, Disney “[maintains] an ESPN office in Charlotte, including the headquarters of its ESPNU, ESPN Events, and SEC Network operations.” The Carolina Panthers play in Charlotte, and networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC could take action by banning their games from public broadcast. Other companies could simply pledge to halt any future business from entering the state.
These actions have proven extraordinarily effective in the past. Following the passage of Indiana’s own religious freedom bill, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in March 2015, companies like Apple, Yelp, Salesforce, and the GAP denounced the bill, while several conferences (including the yearly GenCon in Indianapolis) pulled out of the state. In total, insiders estimate that the state lost $60 million in revenue due to the boycotts, and these protests likely made the difference in helping overturn the law. Last April, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence removed language allowing LGBT discrimination from the bill.
A similar boycott could prove to make the difference in North Carolina, and the film and television industries should help lead the way. In his statement, Reiner encouraged others to join his pledge to keep out the of state. “Unfortunately, Governor Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers have a different vision for North Carolina—one of hate, bigotry, and discrimination,” he said. Those aren’t the values of the North Carolina I know, and they’re not the values of this country.” Let’s hope Hollywood proves him right.