The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) on Monday again called for Congress and the Trump administration to aid movie theaters devastated by the coronavirus pandemic by passing relief legislation.
“American movie theaters need help now,” John Fithian, NATO President & CEO, said in a statement “Soon, a vaccine will allow our industry to return to normal, but without bipartisan action now in the lame-duck session of Congress, hundreds of movie theaters will not make it. Local communities across the nation are and will be permanently damaged. This Congress and Administration still have a job to do.”
According to NATO, 96% of movie theaters have reported losses over 70%. Cinemas employ over 153,000 individuals nationwide and support additional jobs in surrounding retail, motion picture production and distribution.
NATO says Congress can save these cinemas by “including $15 billion for grants for independent venues in a COVID-19 relief package. The ‘Save our Stages’ proposal is the ONLY solution that will provide the bridge that theaters need to see them into next year, when the industry has a chance at recovery.”
Democrats and Republicans have been at a stalemate for months over COVID-19 legislation. The two major sticking points have been the amount of federal aid provided to state and local governments and a Republican-supported liability shield for businesses should their employees contract COVID-19.
As studios continue to push major film releases back into 2021, the entire movie theater industry is facing an existential challenge. AMC, the nation’s largest theater chain, has warned that it could run out of money by year’s end, while Regal Cinemas has closed all of its locations nationwide. With the possible exception of Universal’s “The Croods: A New Age,” which is releasing under a special deal with AMC to shorten its exclusive theatrical window, films set for release in October and November have either moved to a release date next year or straight to streaming.
Last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer along with other Democratic senators came up with the HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act, which extends the Paycheck Protection Plan created in the first round of relief legislation through March 2021 and expands the Small Business Administration’s debt relief program for up to a year.
For arts and entertainment, the bill also provides dedicated assistance to businesses that rely on large gatherings, including movie theaters, live theaters, concert venues and restaurants — though the exact amount of relief available was not immediately clear.