A number of industries have been hit hard by the massive business closures surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, and movie theaters are certainly among them. Fears surrounding the outbreak led to one of the worst box office weekends on record prior to theaters being forced to close themselves. This leaves thousands of employees around the country without work, but now the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) has instituted a $2.4 million fund to help those employees who might be struggling while they're out of work.
The program is a partnership between NATO and the Pioneers Assistance Fund, and the money itself will be dispersed through the Pioneers Assistance Fund COVID-19 Emergency Grant. It is open to anybody who has worked in theatrical exhibition for a minimum of five years. $2.4 million is the size of the initial fund but the grant is open to contributions and so might grow much larger if enough people donate.
The $2.4 million fund is only the first phase of the potential assistance. The second phase is not detailed by NATO, but it will expand who will be eligible for the fund to a larger group of employees within the motion picture industry if our current crisis continues past a certain point in time.
Different businesses have had to handle closures differently, and while some have been able to continue to pay employees even though business has stopped, not all have done so. This fund allows theater workers to potentially find some additional income during this period of closure, in addition to other sources, which include expanded unemployment insurance, which is available to those technically still employed but not working, as well as many more part-time workers.
Certainly, some movie theater employees aren't making a great deal of money in the job, and regardless of how much anybody working at a theater makes, the loss of that income entirely is almost certainly going to hurt. Theaters are going to want to keep as much of their staff as possible, having to train new people when theaters are able to open again is only going to add expenses and slow things down. I'm sure many of the theaters would have wanted to keep paying their employees, but without income from ticket and concession sales, there was no way for most to do that.
Last week, following the passage of the aid package by the Senate, NATO expressed its happiness at being included, allowing theaters owners to do more for their employees...
We applaud the bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate today to provide relief to movie theaters their employees and so many other public-facing industries that have had to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this agreement, movie theaters can look forward with confidence to re-opening and once again serving their communities when this crisis has passed.
It's great to see the Pioneers Fund already being put into action. Hopefully, it, along with other measures from the stimulus package, will help put people back to work and help movie theaters during this difficult time.