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Entertainment Industry to Get $15 Billion in Aid as $900 Billion Stimulus Bill Passes

Live venues and smaller movie theaters are among those that will be able to apply for aid

Less than two weeks before year’s end, Congress is set to finally pass a $900 billion stimulus package that will provide some relief to millions of Americans and businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House approved the stimulus package on Monday night and the Senate is also expected to vote later in the evening.

For Hollywood, one particular element of the package that will be of great relief is the Save Our Stages initiative, a $15 billion aid package shepherded through Congress by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn and championed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The initiative will provide grants to entertainment businesses such as live venues and small, independently owned movie theaters. Each industry has been crippled by the pandemic as live shows have been canceled for nearly nine months and dozens of major blockbusters have been pushed back to 2021 and beyond. Theatrical producers, live performing arts organizations, and museums can also apply.

To ensure that the $15 billion goes to the smallest companies that are most in need, those venues and theaters that wish to qualify must not count in more than two of the following groups:

— Publicly traded companies

— Multinational companies

— Companies that operate in more than 10 U.S. states

— Companies that have more than 500 full-time employees

— Companies that have received at least 10 percent of its revenue from government sources.

This rule means that national theater chains like AMC, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas, along with many regional chains, will not be able to apply for grants. But the bill will offer relief for hundreds of independent movie theaters that the National Association of Theater Owners has warned for months will fall into bankruptcy if aid is not provided.

The Save Our Stages grants will first be opened to applicants who can prove that their revenue from April to December was down more than 90% from the same period in 2019. After a two-week period, the grants will then be opened to those who can prove that their revenue loss amounts between 70-90%.

As much as $12 billion of the allocated stimulus money — including $2 billion for those with less than 50 employees — will be on offer to these two groups during the four-week period, after which the remaining $3 billion along with any remaining money from the initial application period.