Theaters are getting bailed out.
We have been worried about theatrical venues all year, and now a stimulus bill has passed. Let's dig into what that means for movie theaters.
John Fithian, president of the trade group the National Association of Theater Owners, said in a statement, “With multiple vaccines beginning to roll out, we see a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel. There is a very real chance that our business can begin to return to normal in the spring.”
That's great news, and this round of optimism and cash could save 70% of small theaters that were worried about bankruptcy. This will also save around 70,000 jobs.
But what about the big chains?
“NATO continues to seek help for larger movie theater companies not covered by this legislation, which provide tens of thousands of jobs, and operate more than half the movie screens in the country, through tax relief and state aid,” Fithian said.
While America passed a $2 trillion package in March to help theaters stay open, that money has gotten thin now. The new package has $15 billion in aid that would be split between 1,500 live-theater companies and about 3,500 movie theaters. While we don't know who gets what amount, that should be good news.
Theaters who lost the most will benefit the most. But big chains do not think this is enough.
Executive vice president Brock Bagby of The Gladstone Theater Chain (49 locations with 429 screens in nine states) said, “COVID has all but destroyed our business.”
He told MovieMaker, “On March 17, the government shut us down and we were closed company-wide until June… Many industries are suffering but many businesses were allowed to stay open. Airlines never closed, most restaurants never fully closed as they were able to serve takeout. Once restaurants reopened, they had their same offerings. Movie theatres, however, were forced to close entirely and then when reopened were faced with no product from Hollywood in the market as Hollywood moved all major movies to 2021 or 2022. When we reopened we had virtually zero product, resulting in over 80% loss of revenue.”
While this money is all coming during times of need, we're going to find a different way to move forward. Hollywood is not going to stop trying to sell movies and TV shows in ways that can maximize their profits.
This all comes after the news that Warner Brothers will move their titles to HBO Max, which some say will discourage people from going back to theaters for 2021. We also do not know when people will be vaccinated, which means ticket sales will be fluid and dependent on that as well.
There's a lot unknown for 2021, and it sucks to see theaters suffering. I hope most of these places are using this time to figure out tiered pricing, seasonal passes, and new ways to drive viewers. Theaters cannot go back to charging $15 to $20 a ticket and hope to remain stable. AMC Stubs pass is one of the smartest innovations. We need way more of that.
Tell us what you want to see from theaters moving forward.