Top Filmmakers Warn Congress That Movie Theaters Face Extinction

Director Barry Jenkins-Lulu Wang- Clint Eastwood
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From left: Barry Jenkins; Lulu Wang; Clint Eastwood

"Cinemas are an essential industry that represent the best that American talent and creativity have to offer. But now we fear for their future," reads a letter sent to Capitol Hill lawmakers asking for additional pandemic relief.

Dozens of influential filmmakers on Wednesday joined the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association in urging Congress to provide assistance to struggling theater owners impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Together, they warn that many cinemas may not otherwise survive. The vast majority of exhibition companies — or 93 percent — weathered losses of 75 percent in the second quarter of 2020 after moviegoing came to an unprecedented stop in mid-March.

While more than half of theaters are now reopened, Hollywood continues to delay its major fall releases out of concern that many moviegoers aren't yet ready to return.

If this trend continues, NATO is warning that 69 percent of small- and mid-sized movie theaters will be forced to file for bankruptcy or close permanently, while 66 percent of theater jobs will be lost.

"I am extraordinarily grateful for the unprecedented support from our industry partners and the talented and concerned members of the movie industry creative community," NATO president-CEO John Fithian said in a statement. "The value of their recognition of the unique importance of movie theaters to our communities, culture and economy, and their support before Congress of the unique needs of movie theaters in this pandemic cannot be underestimated."

The letter itself — which was addressed to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy — asks that Capitol Hill lawmakers work in a bipartisan fashion to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act, or authorize new assistance programs for those businesses that have suffered the steepest revenue drops as a result of COVID-19.

"Cinemas are an essential industry that represent the best that American talent and creativity have to offer. But now we fear for their future," states the document. "Our country cannot afford to lose the social, economic and cultural value that theaters provide. The moviegoing experience is central to American life. Theaters are great unifiers where our nation’s most talented storytellers showcase their cinematic accomplishments."

Continuing, the letter notes that theaters "supports millions of jobs in movie production and distribution, and countless others in surrounding restaurants and retailers that rely on theaters for foot traffic. Movie theaters are also leaders in employing underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, senior citizens, and first-time job holders."

Below are the directors, writers and producers signing the document.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Agustín Almodóvar
Pedro Almodóvar
Wes Anderson
Judd Apatow
Jon Avnet
Sean Baker
Noah Baumbach
Michael Bay
Susanne Bier
Barbara Broccoli
James Cameron
Antonio Campos
Damien Chazelle
Jon M. Chu
Sofia Coppola
Alfonso Cuarón
Lee Daniels
Dean Devlin
Clint Eastwood
Andrew Erwin
Jon Erwin
Paul Feig
Shana Feste
Scott Frank
Cary Joji Fukunaga
Greta Gerwig
Evan Goldberg
Paul Greengrass
Leslie Greif
Luca Guadagnino
Catherine Hardwicke
Alma Har’el
Ron Howard
Albert Hughes
Allen Hughes
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Barry Jenkins
Patty Jenkins
Rian Johnson
Miranda July
Nicole Kassell
Jon Landau
Francis Lawrence
Mimi Leder
Ang Lee
Rob Letterman
Shawn Levy
Richard Linklater
Melissa McCarthy
James Mangold
Sam Mendes
Adam McKay
Steve McQueen
Ted Melfi
Reed Morano
Christopher Nolan
Jordan Peele
Todd Phillips
Ivan Reitman
Jason Reitman
Guy Ritchie
Jay Roach
Seth Rogen
Joachim Rønning
Michael R. Roskam
David O. Russell
Martin Scorsese
Ridley Scott
M. Night Shyamalan
Zack Snyder
Steven Soderbergh
Joey Soloway
Steven Spielberg
David E. Talbert
Betty Thomas
Emma Thomas
Liesl Tommy
Denis Villeneuve
Taika Waititi
James Wan
Lulu Wang
Chris Weitz
Paul Weitz
Michael G. Wilson
Edgar Wright
Joe Wright
Cathy Yan
David Yates

Oct. 2, 11 a.m. Updated with additional signatories.