theater bankruptcy

2020 has been a rough year for a myriad number of reasons. But as a site that keeps our eyes on the realm of film and television, it’s been especially heartbreaking to see the theatrical moviegoing experience come to a screeching halt while our current government refuses to help out with further stimulus packages.

Now the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners says that as many as 70% of small and mid-sized cinemas could end up going bankrupt by January 2021, which is only two months away.

“A significant percentage of our members — probably around 70% of our mid and small sized members — will either confront bankruptcy reorganization or the likelihood of going out of business entirely by sometime in January,” NATO head John Fithian told Variety (via The Playlist). “That’s assuming we don’t see a big uptick in business, but on our current trajectory things are looking very bad.”

Fithian says that the movie theater industry cannot wait until Joe Biden takes office as President of the United States. They need help immediately, or else things are going to start getting even more dire than they have been for the past eight months. Fithian is pushing for Congress to pass legislation called “Save Our Stages,” a bipartisan effort to send billions of dollars to movie theaters and concert venues to keep their doors open. But even though the plan has support on both sides of the aisle, it seems unlikely it will actually pass, because, as Variety puts it, “Save Our Stages is part of a larger stimulus bill, the details of which are being fought over by the two parties, who remain very far apart.”

“…without a substantial slate of big movies, and with people still worried about the virus, our revenues have been decimated,” Fithian continued. “We’re losing money while operating. And we were shut down entirely for many, many months. It’s life or death for many, many, many theater companies.”

In the rest of the interview, Fithian tries to make the case that theaters are safer than restaurants, churches, and gyms. Unfortunately, we don’t have any great answers here. We desperately want things to be safe enough for us to all feel good about going back to the movies again, but until that happens, it’s hard to blame the American public for not wanting to contract an unpredictable and potentially fatal disease just to see a movie in a theater – especially with cases soaring across the country and the winter months looking like they could be even more deadly.

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