By Mike Murphy
A Hollywood film-industry coalition is urging Congress to come to the aid of the nation’s movie theaters amid the coronavirus crisis, or risk losing most of them.
“Without a solution designed for their circumstances, theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic,” the group — comprising the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Directors Guild of America, the Motion Picture Association and more than 70 film directors, producers and writers — said in a letter sent Wednesday to House and Senate leadership .
Some of the most influential directors in Hollywood have joined the cause, including Oscar-winners Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Alfonso Cuarón and Sofia Coppola.
According to the group, 93% of U.S. movie-theater companies posted losses of 75% or more in the second quarter due to coronavirus-related closures.
While movie theaters have started to reopen with reduced capacity in some states, they are still closed in major markets such as Los Angeles and New York City. A number of major movies scheduled for release this year have been pushed back to 2021.
“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,” the group said.
The letter said movie theaters provide 150,000 jobs in the U.S., along with supporting millions more jobs in the movie production and distribution industries.
The group urged lawmakers to provide targeted relief to help theaters reopen, by reallocating unspent funds from the $3.4 trillion CARES Act passed in the spring, or with funds from a new relief package.
House Democrats are poised to approve a new $2.2 trillion pandemic-aid bill , though it will almost certainly die in the Senate, which favors a smaller package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have agreed to continue negotiations on a compromise bill Thursday, but a significant breakthrough appears unlikely until after the presidential election.