More than 150 independent movie theaters across the United States have temporarily closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Art-House America Campaign aims to provide financial relief to struggling independent cinemas across the country so they can pay staff and their essential bills and survive until it is safe to reopen their doors.
The Campaign was started with an initial donation of $50,000 from the Criterion Collection and Janus Films, and they are inviting friends of independent theaters and art houses everywhere to join them in this fundraising effort. The fund is being administered by the Art House Convergence, a nonprofit association dedicated to sustainability in community-based, mission-driven media exhibition.
Now is the time to stand up for the local movie houses we love. These theaters are fighting to retain valuable staff — programmers, educators, and managers — in the face of dramatically reduced revenue. Government support may be coming soon, but not soon enough. Research shows that even in normal times the average independent theater has only one month and twenty-six days of operating cash on hand, which means that we must act now.
As Christopher Nolan wrote in the Washington Post, "When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever."
Why Support Art Houses?
For Independent Cinema. Art houses are crucial participants in the independent film landscape, the leading exhibitors of small-budget, foreign language, and classic films.
For Film. Art houses make up 82.97% of exhibitors regularly and responsibly screening 35mm film. Without them the general public will lose access to 35mm archival prints and restorations.
For Community. Independent movie theaters bring people together. By inviting the collective viewing of films from around the world, art houses are fostering communication and collaboration and encouraging their audiences to encounter diverse perspectives. Without them, millions of Americans will no longer be able to enjoy a diverse range of films
For our Cities and Towns. Local movie theaters bolster other local businesses, like bars and restaurants. The typical arts event attendee spends $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission, which means that these organizations will be leaders in the financial recovery of their communities.
How Will Funds Be Distributed?
Need. Impact. Sustainability.
The intention of this fund is to ensure that art houses are able to reopen when safe to do so. Funds are intended to support essential payments during closure. Essential payments include those for payroll, insurance, rent, non deferrable loans, utilities, fundraising, and mortgages. Funds cannot be used for equipment purchases, future programming, or executive compensation. Donations will go into a general fund and then be distributed to theaters; donors cannot designate funds for a specific theater's relief.
Applications will be evaluated based on need, with the objective of helping theaters successfully survive temporary closures.
Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis, and funds will be distributed as soon as an application has been approved. We will post regular updates listing funding recipients.
How can theaters apply for relief?
The application period is now closed.
In order to qualify, a theater must:
• Be an art-house motion picture exhibitor that operates year-round.
• Have been an open and operational cinema exhibitor for at least 6 months prior to COVID-19–related closures.
• Be an independent cinema. The exhibitor cannot be publicly traded or manage more than 4 separate theaters. 75% of staff must be based in the metro area where the theater is located.
• Be based in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an art-house cinema?
An art-house cinema is a year-round exhibitor that primarily screens any or all of the following types of films: American independent films, classic/repertory films, foreign-language films, experimental film and media.
Are film festivals eligible for funding?
Film festivals that do not offer year-round programming are not eligible for funding.
How long is the campaign?
The campaign is slated to run for one month, ending April 30, 2020, but grants will be made on a rolling basis as soon as funds are available and applications are approved.
Who is reviewing applications and making grants?
The application review committee includes:
Alison Kozberg, Art House Convergence; Dean Otto, Curator of Film at the Speed Art Museum; Sultan Sharrief, filmmaker, educator, social entrepreneur and trans-media activist; Courtney Sheehan, principal and founder of Context Moves and former artistic and executive director for Northwest Film Forum; Ronnie Ycong, film industry independent consultant; Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts, Block Museum; and Lela Meadow-Conner, Executive Director, Film Festival Alliance. Additional review committee members to be announced.
Why is this fund limited to theaters in the United States?
During this global pandemic, each country is navigating unique national funding structures. This campaign is tailored to meet specific needs that have arisen in response to the arts and small-business infrastructures in the United States.
What is the relationship between this project and the Michigan Theater Foundation?
Art House Convergence is a program of the Michigan Theater Foundation, a 501(c)3 based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In order to eliminate bias in the granting process, the Michigan Theater Foundation will not apply for, nor receive any funding from, this campaign.
Why does this Campaign consider applications from nonprofit and for-profit theaters?
Many art houses operate as mission-driven small businesses that are committed to bringing cinema to their communities. All exhibitors of art house cinema have been greatly impacted by temporary closures and are in need of financial aid.
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