Movie Business Leaders Urge Congress to Fund Theater Bailout

Leaders of the nation’s movie theater business, which has been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, are urging Congress to provide bailout funds so the industry can survive.

The letter urges Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act to proposals that help businesses that have suffered the steepest revenue drops due to the pandemic. The National Association of Theatre Owners, the Directors Guild of America, the Motion Picture Association and more than 70 directors, producers, and writers signed the letter.

Signers include Wes Anderson, Judd Apatow, James Cameron, Alfonso Cuarón, Clint Eastwood, Paul Feig, Greta Gerwig,
Evan Goldberg, Barry Jenkins, Patty Jenkins, Ang Lee, Sam Mendes, Steve McQueen, Christopher Nolan, David O. Russell,
Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan, Zack Snyder, Steven Soderbergh, Denis Villeneuve, Taika Waititi, James Wan and Lulu Wang.

“Thank you for your leadership at this challenging time for our country,” the letter begins. “As you consider forthcoming
COVID-19 relief legislation, we ask you to prioritize assistance for the hardest-hit industries, like our country’s beloved movie theaters.”

“No doubt you are hearing from many, many businesses that need relief. Movie theaters are in dire straits, and we urge you to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act to proposals that help businesses that have suffered the steepest revenue drops due to the pandemic, or to enact new proposals such as the RESTART Act (S. 3814/H.R. 7481). Absent a solution designed for their circumstances, theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic.”

“The pandemic has been a devastating financial blow to cinemas. 93% of movie theater companies had over 75% in losses in the second quarter of 2020. If the status quo continues, 69% of small and mid-sized movie theater companies will be forced to file for bankruptcy or to close permanently, and 66% of theater jobs will be lost. Our country cannot afford to lose the social, economic, and cultural value that theaters provide.”

“The moviegoing experience is central to American life. 268 million people in North America went to the movies last year to laugh, cry, dream, and be moved together. Theaters are great unifiers where our nation’s most talented storytellers showcase their cinematic accomplishments. Every aspiring filmmaker, actor, and producer dreams of bringing their art to the silver screen, an irreplaceable experience that represents the pinnacle of filmmaking achievement.”

Currently, about 75% of U.S. theater markets are open, but the key Los Angeles and New York markets remain closed along with most of California, North Carolina, Michigan, New Mexico, Seattle-Tacoma and Portland, except for drive-ins. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, estimated that only 58% of theaters are currently open in North America.

As a result, Hollywood studios have been postponing releases of high-profile titles out of concern that many moviegoers remain uncomfortable with returning to multiplexes — even with social-distancing restrictions. Warner Bros. gambled with its Christopher Nolan thriller, “Tenet,” and has seen underwhelming results with $41 million domestically in four weeks and only $3.4 million in its most recent weekend.

Read the full letter here.

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