COVID has hit businesses very hard and movie theaters are no exception.
The last movie I saw in theaters, I think, was The Invisible Man and it was so long ago. I have begun to forget that smell of freshly popped corn and gummy bears and the taste of a Cherry Coke sucked through a straw.
I have been at the movies almost every week of my adult life, but thanks to the pandemic, I have not even thought twice about going back. And I'm not alone. Theatrical attendance has been throttled by the threat of catching the 'rona.
First, theaters were closed, then there was limited capacity, and now we have a mixture of both. There have been layoffs, chains shuttering, and the struggle for these places to survive has been treacherous.
Now, a number of high profile filmmakers, including James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, Zack Snyder, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan, and Edgar Wright (among many others) have reached out and asked Congress to reallocate funds from the CARES Act proposals to movie theaters across the country.
This money would help pay the salaries of people who work there and also the rent to keep theaters alive.
Here's the letter they sent to Congress in its entirety (via Deadline):
Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:
Thank you for your leadership at this challenging time for our country. 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.
As well as their critical cultural impact, theaters are economic force multipliers. In addition to the 150,000 employees working in cinemas nationwide, the industry supports millions of jobs in movie production and distribution, and countless others in surrounding restaurants and retailers that rely on theaters for foot traffic. Movie theaters are also leaders in employing underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, senior citizens, and first-time job holders. Cinemas are an essential industry that represent the best that American talent and creativity have to offer. But now we fear for their future.
Theaters need specific relief targeted to their circumstances. We urge you to come together on a bipartisan solution that provides this relief, by reallocating unspent funds from the CARES Act toward programs designed for industries like movie theaters, or by enacting new proposals such as the RESTART Act. These solutions would fulfill Congress’s intent in helping severely distressed sectors of the economy and ensure that our resources are focused on the industries that need them the most.
Please fight for our country’s beloved and essential cinemas by including relief for them in any
forthcoming COVID-19 legislation. Thank you for your leadership and for considering this request.
John Fithian President & CEO, NATO
Russ Hollander, National Executive Director, DGA
Charles Rivkin, Chairman & CEO, MPA
Thomas Schlamme, President, DGA
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Wes Anderson, Judd Apatow, Jon Avnet, Sean Baker, Noah Baumbach, Michael Bay, Susanne Bier, Barbara Broccoli, James Cameron, Antonio Campos, Damien Chazelle, Jon M. Chu, Sofia Coppola, Alfonso Cuarón, Lee Daniels, Dean Devlin, Clint Eastwood, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin, Paul Feig, Shana Feste, Scott Frank, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Greta Gerwig, Evan Goldberg, Paul Greengrass, Leslie Greif, Luca Guadagnino, Catherine Hardwicke, Alma Har’el, Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Barry Jenkins, Patty Jenkins, Rian Johnson, Miranda July, Nicole Kassell, Jon Landau, Francis Lawrence, Mimi Leder, Ang Lee, Rob Letterman, Shawn Levy, Richard Linklater, James Mangold, Sam Mendes, Adam McKay, Steve McQueen, Ted Melfi, Reed Morano, Christopher Nolan, David O. Russell, Todd Phillips, Guy Ritchie, Seth Rogen, Joachim Rønning, Michael R. Roskam, Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan, Zack Snyder, Steven Soderbergh, Joey Soloway, David E. Talbert, Betty Thomas, Emma Thomas, Liesl Tommy, Denis Villeneuve, Taika Waititi, James Wan, Lulu Wang, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Michael G. Wilson, Edgar Wright, Joe Wright, Cathy Yan, David Yates.
These are dire times. AMC theaters just posted a $561 million loss and other chains are probably around the same number. With these kinds of struggles, there is not a real way forward. The pandemic is a problem that no one has a solution for yet. I worked at a theater in college and it was a time for me to really expand my mind when it came to movies. I saw everything and it got me to where I am.
Still, theaters are changing. It seems like places like Amazon or Disney or Universal might step in to buy chains just to show their own movies. And AMC, Regal, and United Artists won't be able to stop them, especially if they're deep in debt.
Only time will tell what happens. Unlike any other recession, these chains aren't going to operate at capacity for a while. We can bail them out now, but without a vaccine, they still won't be able to operate the way they are supposed to.
This will be the first among a lot of aid they will need to stick around.
Let us know what you think in the comments.