By Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator for New York
Movie theaters are beloved anchors of our communities. They are places we come to experience stories together. In the dark—with popcorn or some candy—we laugh, feel joy, and sorrow as one audience. I absolutely love going to the movies.
And the pandemic took all that away.
When the shutdowns began last spring, theaters across the country were devastated. Overnight, many saw their revenue wiped out. Ushers, concession workers, ticket sellers, and projectionists lost their jobs. The future looked bleak. One could have imagined theater owners giving in to messages of doom and gloom.
But when I walked the streets of New York I saw a different message. On marquees, theaters declared in different ways that they would not lose hope. On the marquee of Nitehawk Cinema, a great independent theater near my home in Brooklyn, there were three messages: “Now showing: Onward,” “See you on the other side,” and “Be excellent to each other.”
All across the country, one could see these messages of hope on theater marquees. Some had riffs on movie titles, others dark jokes, and many earnest messages asking us all to be good to one another in troubled times. Together they told a story. Theaters weren’t going to give up; they were going to fight back against the darkness of Covid-19.
But no amount of hope could change the dire financial realities that movie theaters found themselves in. With revenues gone and months to go before reopening, something needed to be done.
NATO stepped up in a huge way. You mobilized theater owners from across the country around the rallying cry #SaveYourCinema. You helped remind people that theaters are the “beating hearts of the communities they serve.” And you made sure the country understood that without massive federal aid hundreds of theaters would go out of business and tens of thousands of jobs would be lost.
I am so proud to have worked to convert your fantastic advocacy into meaningful legislation. I made sure that movie theaters were included in the Save Our Stages Act, and worked hard with you to make sure that the aid addressed the needs of the industry. Together we made the case to America that we needed to help our theaters. Passing the Save Our Stage Act and securing $16+ billion in federal aid wasn’t easy, and I know I would not have been able to do it without your tireless support.
We are at the point—finally—when the lights will dim, and the main feature will start. Theater owners across the country are applying for grants through the SBA. Soon, money will flow to beleaguered theaters. Vaccine rollouts, super-charged by the passage of the American Rescue Plan, have surpassed expectations. In many places, movie theaters are open for business and film-loving audiences are filling seats once again.
We will continue to work together to make sure movie theaters make a strong recovery from this horrible time in our country’s history. And I know that because of our efforts together, Americans all across the country will get to experience the wonders of movie magic together in theaters again.