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Movie Theaters to Receive Billions in Relief Funds as Part of the Save Our Stages Act (Updated)

(Photo: Felix Mooneeram)

in Distribution, Filmmaking
on Dec 21, 2020

December 28, 2020 update: After delaying his signature by several days, President Trump signed the COVID-19 relief package containing the Save Our Stages act. The final specifics of the act, as released by Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, can be found at the conclusion of this article, which has also been updated.

Small and mid-sized movie theaters will receive a portion of $15 billion in funds contained within the COVID-19 relief package being voted upon by Congress today. In addition to $600 stimulus payments, an extension of the $300/weekly enhanced federal unemployment benefit and further Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, the package contains the Save Our Stages act, originally written to support live entertainment venues and introduced in the Senate by Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX). As Klobuchar explained in an interview to Variety, the Save Our Stages request of $10 million was boosted to $15 million so that theaters, museums, zoos and other venues could be included in the bill.

According to the interview, theaters — who must have 500 employees or less — will be able to apply for grants equalling 45% of their 2019 revenue in one of two application periods. The two weeks following the opening of applications will be restricted to venues that have lost over 90% of their 2019 revenue in 2020. The second two weeks will be open to venues that have lost 70% of 2019 revenue.

Venues applying for this grant will not be able to also apply for this new round of PPP loans. According to the posted legislation, individual venues can request up to $10 million to cover 2020 revenue shortfalls.

The final specifics of the grant follow:

Create a new grant program at the Small Business Administration to provide assistance to independent live venue operators, promoters, producers, talent representatives, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.

Permit recipients to use grants for various costs, including those associated with COVID-19:

  • Rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases; and:
  • PPE procurement, capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines. Grants are narrowly targeted and appropriately calculated to provide 6 months of operating assistance for small and independent live venue operators and their industry partners.

Grants are equal to the lesser of 45% of gross revenue during 2019; or 10 million.

To ensure the hardest hit of eligible applicants receive assistance, there are two priority application periods. The first 14 days, only eligible entities that have lost more than 90% of gross revenue can apply. The next 14 days, only eligible entities that have lost more than 70% can apply. A reserve of 20% of overall appropriated funds, $3 billion out of the $15 billion provided, will remain available for all other eligible entities to apply for after 28 days.

  • There is a $2 billion set-aside of funds for eligible entities with 50 or fewer employees to ensure smaller applicants are not left out.

  • An entity is still eligible for a grant if they have received a PPP loan prior to implementation of the program, but the entity may not receive a PPP loan and a grant after implementation of the program.

(Photo: Felix Mooneeram)

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