News and Commentary

Invoking Airline Bailout, Movie Theaters Submit Plea To Trump Administration
FRANCE - JUNE 12: The “GAUMONT” room with Italian place and wide screen in Paris, France on June 12, 1992.
Photo by Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The National Association of Theater Owners, a trade organization that represents 33,000 movie screens across the United States, has asked the Trump administration for a financial bailout, arguing that the movie theater industry is “uniquely vulnerable” to the coronavirus crisis.

According to The New York Times, the group has requested an unspecified amount, and invoked the Trump administration’s movement toward a bailout for the airline industry as reason to consider their own request.

“The Trump administration is considering loan guarantees and other benefits for the airline industry, which is composed of huge corporations and salaried workers,” said John Fithian, chief executive of the organization, reports the news agency. “We would ask that they also consider the movie theater industry, an important part of the cultural fabric for our country, and our 150,000 employees who are hourly workers.”

The organization has asked for tax breaks so that theaters may continue to pay their employees while theaters remain closed, reports the news agency.

A press release shows that the organization has also requested loan guarantees, help with unspecified ongoing costs, and additional tax measures that will help the industry in reopening after the crisis is over.

In a statement on Tuesday, the organization displayed an optimistic tone about the future of the movie theater industry, despite ongoing closures that have come from increased coronavirus precautions.

“No one can precisely predict when public life will return to normal, but it will return. The social nature of human beings – the thing that exposes us to contagion, and that makes it so difficult to change behavior in response to pandemic threats – is also the thing that gives us confidence in the future,” reads the statement.

“People will return to movie theaters because that is who people are. When they return they will rediscover a cutting edge, immersive entertainment experience that they have been forcefully reminded they cannot replicate at home. In the uncertain, difficult economy ahead, movie theaters will fill the role they always have in boom times and in recessions – the most popular, affordable entertainment available outside the home,” said the statement.

According to Deadline, domestic movie ticket sales were at record-lows in 2019, and theaters have experienced levels of attendance unseen since 1995. The Los Angeles Times reports that Disney movies accounted for 32% of all domestic and Canadian movie ticket sales in the same year.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, movie studios have started delaying the release of larger motion pictures in response to the crisis, but NBCUniversal has decided to break with custom and release the movie “Trolls World Tour” for home-viewing at the time it would typically be reserved for theaters.

The decision to delay the release of all but one movie “suggests that studios are still reluctant to make their biggest tentpoles in the home available immediately,” reports the news agency. 

In the past, the movie theater industry has threatened to not show any movie that doesn’t follow a typical home-viewing release schedule, which serves to encourage consumers to attend movies theaters, reports the news agency.