Theater Owners Ask Congress For Financial Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic


Movie theater owners are seeking relief for the shutdown of thousands of screens during the coronavirus crisis.

The National Association of Theatre Owners unveiled a set of measures that they want lawmakers to take up as part of a stimulus package, now being discussed by Congress.

The theaters are seeking  loan guarantees to ease a liquidity squeeze, tax benefits to help employers provide support to employees, recovery of ongoing costs and other tax measures to help the theaters recoup losses.

“The business model of the movie theater industry is uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis,” NATO said in a statement. “As we confront this evolving and unprecedented period, we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that America’s movie theater industry and its tens of thousands of employees across the country can remain resilient.”

NATO’s executive board also authorized $1 million from its reserve to aid movie theater employees who are out of work due to movie theater closures as a result of the coronavirus. The money will be used as seed funds to help employees who are out of work due to the closures. Some 150,000 are employed at movie theaters nationwide.

The White House is proposing a massive, $1-trillion-plus stimulus package that would include sending money directly to many Americans, as well as offering loans to particularly hard-hit industries such as airlines and hospitality. The Walt Disney Co. was among the participants in a meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday to discuss the dire situation for the hotel, theme park and tourism business.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees also is petitioning Congress to include entertainment workers in a relief package. More than 82,000 have signed the petition, designed to help out a workforce that doesn’t fall into a traditional employment structure.

“The unique nature of the entertainment industry means that many of the creative professionals may not work every day, or even every month,” the petition states. “Existing paid leave programs are by and large not applicable to this workforce. Entertainment workers depend on the income from each project they book to ensure they can support themselves and can qualify to participate in our collectively bargained health plans. Rules designed specifically for the traditional single employer relationship, or even for multi-employer work in the construction industry are likely to exclude our members, and entertainment freelancers in general.”


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