COVID-19

With congressional support, what are the prospects for movie theaters?

Marielle Segarra Dec 21, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A sparse crowd waits for the show to start at a movie theater in Las Vegas. Attendance has been way down in 2020. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
COVID-19

With congressional support, what are the prospects for movie theaters?

Marielle Segarra Dec 21, 2020
A sparse crowd waits for the show to start at a movie theater in Las Vegas. Attendance has been way down in 2020. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

In October, when New York state allowed theaters in certain places to reopen, Cinemapolis — a small, independent theater in Ithaca — decided not to. Executive Director Brett Bossard said it didn’t feel right.

“We really didn’t want to be the one movie theater in a pretty large radius to be open and be potentially an attractor for the virus into our community,” Bossard said.

The theater got a Paycheck Protection Program loan in April, but that’s gone now. With the help of its savings and some donations, Cinemapolis has continued to pay its 12 employees.

But Bossard just did the 2021 budget, and “we are going to need some additional support to operate in any capacity for the coming year,” he said.

And the theater may soon get that support. The congressional relief package includes $15 billion for independent movie theaters, as well as concert venues and other cultural institutions.

Bossard said that money is needed because even when the theater does reopen, it will be limited by the state to 25% capacity. And it won’t have many movies to show.

Cinemapolis shows a lot of indie films, but it relies on crossover hits from studios — like last year’s “Parasite” or “Little Women” — to bring people in.

And because so many theaters are closed, studios have been delaying their movie releases.

“One thing that we were waiting on this fall was the new Wes Anderson film,” he said. “That’s just been sort of mothballed, I think indefinitely until more markets are open.”

That’s one of the reasons that despite the vaccines, theaters need the money now, said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxofficepro.com.

“We still have a very rough winter to get through, and exhibitors don’t have a lot of new product coming out until March,” Robbins said.

This is coming off a year of dismal attendance. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, movie theaters have collected only about 10% of the ticket sales during the pandemic that they did in the same period last year.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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