AMC to rethink Georgia filming if abortion law takes effect

ATLANTA (AP) — The network behind a show that’s become closely linked to Georgia says it will “reevaluate” its activity in the state if a new abortion law goes into effect.

“The Walking Dead” is an economic powerhouse and brings streams of tourists to the Georgia towns where it has been filmed.

A statement from AMC Networks calls the abortion legislation “highly restrictive” and says it will be closely watching what’s likely to be “a long and complicated fight” over the law. Georgia’s ban on virtually all abortions will take effect next year if it’s not blocked in the courts.

Georgia’s law is often referred to as a “heartbeat” law because it bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

AMC’s statement also mentions abortion bills in other states. That could put several states in what some observers have described as a “no-go zone” for TV and movie-making.

“Similar bills — some even more restrictive — have passed in multiple states and have been challenged. This is likely to be a long and complicated fight and we are watching it all very closely,” AMC said.

Alabama lawmakers have passed a measure that would outlaw almost all abortions. Its ban makes performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. An exception would be allowed if the mother’s health is at serious risk.

A long list of TV shows and movies have filmed in Alabama in recent years. They include the 2014 movie “Selma” that recounted pivotal points in the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Other movies shot in the state include “Get Out” and “Big Fish.”

AMC is joining several other TV and film companies expressing concerns over Georgia’s legislation, though no major studio has actually pulled out of the state.

“If the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions,” WarnerMedia has said in a recent statement. WarnerMedia productions has been filming several pictures in Georgia, including the Warner Bros. film, “The Conjuring 3,” and the HBO show, “Lovecraft County.”

NBCUniversal has also weighed in on how abortion laws in multiple states might affect future productions.

“If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future,” the company said recently.

Georgia has a long history of offering tax credits to lure TV and movie productions away from southern California. As a result, it has become known as the “Hollywood of the South.”

A turning point in Georgia’s movie industry came in 1972 with the release of the movie “Deliverance,” filmed in the north Georgia mountains, according to historical accounts from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Before he was elected president, then-Gov. Jimmy Carter saw the industry’s potential after the success of that movie, and established a state film commission the following year, the agency said.

TV shows such as “The Dukes of Hazard” and movies including “Smokey and the Bandit” were filmed in the state in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Georgia’s film and television industry now supports more than 90,000 local jobs, the Motion Picture Association of American said in a report earlier this year.

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