After months of lobbying, news of Congress passing a $900 billion stimulus bill was met with great relief from Hollywood’s guilds and trade organizations, who expressed hope that the aid would signal the beginning of the end of one of the hardest challenges the entertainment industry has ever faced.
“With multiple vaccines beginning to roll out, we see a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel,” John Fithian, President/CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement. “There is a very real chance that our business can begin to return to normal in the spring.”
The stimulus package passed by Congress late Monday includes a $15 billion package called Save Our Stages, which was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn and provides $15 billion to various types of entertainment businesses such as independent cinemas, concert venues, and museums. $12 billion will be reserved for applicants who prove that the pandemic has cost their business over 70% of their revenue compared to 2019.
“This bipartisan agreement, shepherded by Senators [Chuck] Schumer, Cornyn and Klobuchar, means that the vast majority of small and mid-size U.S. movie theaters and their employees will have the resources to make it through to the end of that tunnel,” Fithian said.
SAG-AFTRA also praised the reinstatement of pandemic unemployment assistance, which will offer $300/week for all eligible Americans through March 14. For those who do not receive a steady income, as most SAG-AFTRA and film/TV industry workers do, an extra $100/week will be added.
“As we near the holiday season, I want to thank Congress for remembering SAG-AFTRA members, with the acknowledgement that there is more to do. The effects of the pandemic will be with us for a long while, and I hope the federal government continues to offer aid to all Americans,” she said. “I also want to thank members who contacted their elected representatives and let them know the importance of protecting copyrighted works. I have no doubt that members’ voices were instrumental in getting this legislation passed.”
Another late addition to the stimulus bill that Hollywood orgs cheered was the Protect Lawful Streaming Act, which makes illegal commercial streaming a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Charles Rivkin, Chairman/CEO of the Motion Picture Association, said that the act “protects creators, innovators, and consumers by ensuring that operators of commercial pirate streaming services face meaningful criminal penalties in appropriate circumstances.”
The stimulus package comes as Hollywood and the rest of the country enter the early stages of a nationwide vaccination campaign. Approximately 556,000 vaccines were administered in the first week of availability, and health officials are hoping to vaccinate all at-risk and essential groups and open the vaccine to the public sometime in the second quarter of 2021.
But should the vaccine distribution suffer delays, another round of stimulus may need to be passed next year. The Georgia runoff election on January 5 will go a long way in shaping what future Congressional action against the pandemic will look like as control over the U.S. Senate is still yet to be determined.