Independent theatre owners are increasingly frustrated by the excruciatingly slow pace of the rollout of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program. The program is being administered by a team at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which has also had responsibility for managing the widely popular and successful Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). SVOG was approved in the waning days of the Trump administration, but after more than five months only a handful of venues have received funding from SVOG, with only 90 venues having been approved out of the more than 14,000 organizations that have applied. In a press release last Thursday, NATO’s President and CEO John Fithian highlighted the dilemma caused by these delays for his member theatre owners.
“The pandemic is easing, capacity restrictions on movie theaters are being lifted, major movies are being widely released, but hundreds of movie theater companies cannot open until they have rehired their employees, paid their vendors and their rent. The SBA is actively damaging the companies they were supposed to help. That must end now.”
Unlike large circuits, independent exhibitors are less likely to have access to funds other than those provide through government program such as the SVOG. Without these resources, many theatres have been unable to re-open and take advantage of the consumer interest in new Hollywood releases such as A Quiet Place Part II, Cruella and In the Heights.