Movie Theaters During The Pandemic: An Update On How Cinemas Are Doing And One Way You Can Help

Movie theaters across the globe are shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that's bad news no matter how you slice it. The fact of the matter is that no theater chain was even slightly prepared for this, giving rise to fears that many theater chains are doomed to go out of business completely. In the wake of such dire prognostications, several theater owners and more are trying to find ways to survive. Here's what's going on right now.

Theater Owners Nervous About Loan Problems

The Wrap has a big piece talking with movie theater owners about the sorry state of theaters across the country, and it's not pretty. Some theater owners claim that their attempts to apply for loans "through the Small Business Administration (SBA) website shortly after Congress passed what is known as the CARES Act, only to find days later that they would have to apply through a bank approved by the SBA as a lender. But their own bank was not one of those lenders." While others talk about problems with "their applications to banks struggling to get a handle on a new program suddenly thrust upon them. Last Friday, the new system was opened less than 24 hours after the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Sec. Steven Mnuchin, issued final rules on the program to banks."

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) were in favor of the loan program at first, but are now finding that the program "has proven to be less useful than anticipated for businesses that are closed and can't pay employees." Complicating matters, banks like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup refused to open applications at first. They're open to them now, but only JP Morgan Chase is giving small business loans through the program. Summing things up, one theater owner said: "I honestly don't know what our situation will be like next month, let alone if we are still closed through July or August."

Cinemark Launches Debt Sale

Over at Variety, there's news that Cinemark is launching a $250 million debt sale. The theater chain wants to use the sale for general corporate purposes, including "enhancing its liquidity." Cinemark has shut down practically all of its theaters, and the fact that the summer movie season as we know it is all but obliterated, things are only going to get worse for Cinemark and other theaters, who do most of their business in the summer. The debt will be "secured by a first-priority lien on its leases," per the Variety story.

Sorry, Pandemic Insurance Doesn't Cover This Pandemic

Since the coronavirus has indeed been declared a pandemic, you might think that pandemic insurance would cover it. But apparently not. The Star Cinema Grill in Houston is suing its insurance company for not recognizing COVID-19 as part of their coverage. The theater chain paid  $40,000 in premiums for $1 million in coverage, per KHOU, but insurance company Lloyds of London is trying to weasel its way out of the deal by stating that COVID-19 isn't listed as a "named disease" in the policy.

"Star Cinema grill has an expectation, since it's done its part, it's paid its premium, that the insurance company is going to stand up and do what its part is, which is to pay the claim," said the theater's attorney.

Lionsgate Teams with Fandango, YouTube, and NATO to Screen Free Movies Help Furloughed Movie Theater Employees

This has been a pretty bleak series of stories, so I saved a positive one for last. Lionsgate has teamed with Fandango, YouTube, and NATO to launch Lionsgate Live!, which hopes to recreate the "communal theatrical experience" from the comforts of home. And for free. Starting Friday, you'll be able to stream four of Lionsgate's films – The Hunger GamesDirty DancingLa La Land, and John Wick, on Lionsgate's YouTube page and Fandango's Movieclips YouTube page. The films will be hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis. Here's the schedule:

The free movies that will live-stream on Fridays at 6:00 P.M. PST/9:00 P.M. EST are:

April 17 – The Hunger Games

April 24 – Dirty Dancing

May 1 – La La Land

May 8 – John Wick (age registration required)

Here's where money comes in, and goes towards a good cause: Popcornopolis, purveyors of gourmet popcorn, will "support with a consumer movie night offer, with 10% of sales donated to the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. And SnackNation, the country's leading provider of better-for-you snacks, drinks, and coffee for the home and office, will curate a movie-themed snack box with a special price and free shipping."

The screenings will also feature "interactive opportunities for fans, like real-time fan chats via YouTube Live, live tweeting @Lionsgate and partners, and shared fan engagement opportunities in-show, including movie trivia, movie-themed challenges, and more." And there's more:

Audiences everywhere will have the chance to join Lionsgate in showing support for the country's temporarily jobless movie theater employees and how much we all appreciate and miss them. Lionsgate's initial donation as well as the audience and partner donations throughout this event will benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping workers throughout the motion picture industry, and will link to the Foundation's charitable page so that viewers who are able can help as well. The Will Rogers Foundation is currently providing financial assistance to theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.