The National Association of Theater Owners and the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation on Monday launched a new fund to provide assistance to the scores of movie-theater workers left without a paycheck after nearly all cinemas around the country have closed their doors.
The Pioneers Assistance Fund was started with $2.4 million initially; NATO and the Foundation are encouraging members of the film industry to donate to further increase support of those who work in exhibition.
In order to apply, people must meet the following criteria: have worked in exhibition for at least five years, have been furloughed or laid off by the theater circuit you work for due to the coronavirus, working for a movie theater is your primary source of income, and you have not secured a new job. Organizers say they hope to eventually expand the criteria to cover more people.
Those who qualify can be awarded an an initial $300 stipend with larger grants considered on a case-by-case basis. The money is meant to supplement government relief: The $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday provides an additional $600 per week for unemployment claims and extends benefits for an additional 13 weeks. Typically, most states limit unemployment benefits to six-and-a-half months.
Unemployment claims skyrocketed the week of March 15 as the pandemic took hold over American life. That’s when 3.3 million filed claims, up from 282,000 the week before. For comparison, initial claims during the Great Recession topped out at 700,000.
Among those filing are movie-theater workers. Aside from a few drive-ins, theaters around the U.S. shut down over the last few weeks for what AMC Theatres, the country’s largest chain, estimates could last up to three months.
AMC has furloughed or let go of its 27,000 workers, including those at headquarters. Regal’s furlough plan for all but 1,000 of its 25,000 cinema and headquarters staff leaves them with no pay and one month of COBRA health insurance, according to Deadline.
Regal is among 17 companies that have teamed up with Albertsons to create a pipeline of laid-off workers in need of jobs for the grocery chain, which is hiring 30,000 in response to increased demand during the outbreak.
As theaters weather this existential threat, the stimulus package could offer some relief. NATO applauded passage of the bill, which offers $454 billion in loan guarantees for businesses to cover fixed cost when revenue flow is interrupted, tax relief, credits for businesses that retain employees on payroll, and more.
To apply and read more about the grant for theater workers, visit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation.