How to Help Independent Cinemas During the COVID-19 Shutdown

Now, more than ever, independent and art house theaters rely on outside assistance to keep employees paid and other essential costs taken care of. Government programs have been set up in different countries to benefit theatrical exhibitors—Art House Convergence and the Independent Cinema Office have information for resources in the U.S. and U.K., respectively—but for independent moviegoers looking to support independent cinemagoing, there are options.

Boxoffice Pro will be adding to the list below as we learn about more fundraisers; please feel free to email us at numbers@boxoffice.com. Aside from the below options, moviegoers are encouraged to check out the websites and social media platforms of their favorite local cinemas to find out ways to support them; this may be by buying a gift card or a membership, buying a ticket to a virtual movie screening, or donating money directly. (And, of course, theaters are encouraged to share these options with their once-and-future customers.)

Will Rogers Pioneers Assistance Fund COVID-19 Emergency Grants

The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneer Foundation, which has been providing financial assistance to movie theater veterans for over 80 years, currently offers an emergency grant for those affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. (This is not exclusive to indie/art-house employees.) They are accepting donations here.

Art-House America

Art House Convergence is behind the Art-House America Campaign, which has raised just shy of $400,000 (as of 4/15) for struggling independent cinemas across the U.S.. Funds distributed to these theaters are meant to go towards essential costs, including payroll, insurance, rent, utilities, fundraising, mortgages, and non-deferrable loans. Information about applying can be found here

Chicago Cinema Workers Fund

The Chicago Cinema Workers Fund has been established to provide financial support to eligible cinema employees in the Chicago area. The fund’s goal is to provide every eligible applicant with $300, equivalent to 20 hours of work at $15 an hour, in the first half of May.

Balboa/Vogue Employee Relief Fund

San Francisco’s Balboa and Vogue theaters have set up a GoFundMe to benefit their staff, which are now temporarily out of work.

Support the Michigan & State Theaters

The Michigan Theater Foundation, which runs the Michigan and State Theatres in Ann Arbor, estimate that they are facing over a million dollars in net revenue lost during the shutdown. Their GoFundMe isn’t looking to raise that much–just $100,000 to go towards utilities, virtual screenings, and keeping some of their hard-working staff members employed during the shutdown.

Jam Jar Local Heroes Campaign

A fundraiser of a different sort: the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay, England is raising money to provide 1,000 vouchers for “local heroes”—NHS staff, police, firefighters, and care workers—upon the cinema’s reopening. The cinema hit their initial target, prompting them to expand their goals to providing discounted tickets to additional frontline groups, including supermarket staff, delivery drivers, and teachers.

Paradise Theatre

Inspired by the Jam Jar campaign, Toronto’s Paradise Theatre has begun their own initiative aimed towards gifting local frontline workers with movie tickets after the shutdown is over. For every ticket sold to one of the Paradise’s theatrical VOD offerings, two will be donated once theater opens.

Countryfest Community Cinema

CountryFest Community Cinema in Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada is asking for moviegoer support through a handful of avenues: watching a movie through their virtual cinema, buying gift cards, or donating directly.

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