Edit: On January 15th we received a reply. It reads: Thank you for contacting me about the situation facing cinemas. I share your concern about this issue. The Government stresses that cinemas have been supported during the COVID-19 pandemic through both sector-specific and economy-wide measures. For example, over 200 independent cinemas have received funding from a £30 million pot allocated from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). Cinemas will be able to apply for another £14 million in grants under the CRF in 2021 and have also been eligible to apply to Arts Council England’s Repayable Finance scheme, with a total of £100 million available. In addition, cinemas have been able to access the furlough scheme, which has been extended until 30 April 2021 and enables eligible employees to receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Further support measures include a VAT cut on tickets and concessions, a business rates holiday and Bounce Back Loans. As a result of the national lockdown currently in place, businesses that are forced to close will receive up to £3,000 for each 28-day period affected. Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors can also apply for a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 per property. While it is certainly good news that several independent cinemas will be supported through the CRF and I welcome any support for businesses labouring under coronavirus restrictions, sadly this will not help those businesses that have already had to shut permanently. For months, I have supported calls for the UK Government to get ahead of this crisis and to target support at the sectors hit hardest. The cinema industry was viable before COVID-19 and it will be afterwards. The sooner we get the virus under control and get Britain vaccinated, the sooner we can reopen the economy. In the meantime, I will continue to press for action from the Chancellor to avoid further job losses in the cinema sector. I will also push, more widely, for a proper plan to protect jobs and businesses and put Britain back on the path to a better, more secure recovery. Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue. Yours sincerely, Thangam Debbonaire MP (Member of Parliament for Bristol West)
Whilst still living in a world of imbalance and regular life in flux, the UK Cinema Association is currently asking for your help. In a callout and via the hashtag #KeepTheMagicAlive they are asking for you to message your MP directly, showing your support for cinemas and urging them to do the same. Already feeling the change and with the overall bleak outlook of the future of picture houses, reactions have been quite rightly loud; from AV Club smugly claiming that cinema itself is already deceased, to director Edgar Wright showing his urge to help on Twitter, the campaign needs as many names as it can get to make any sort of impact. While the actual process of this only takes a few minutes (put in your address and postcode, the bulk email is already written there for you to send), I have included my personal message that I sent to my local politician here in Bristol, England.
As of this year, I have been to a cinema perhaps three times.
My last visit was to see the excellent Saint Maud, directed by Rose Glass at Cabot Circus’ Showcase De Lux. And whilst the film itself was a treat – a spooky take on a love triangle between patient, carer and faith – I couldn’t help but leave the showing and remark on how the best part of the experience was simply being there, within said picture house. It reminded me of simply how much of my own lifestyle I had missed this year. I remarked on how a lack of frequent screenings had felt like a part of me was missing; like an aspect of my very own personality had been somehow amputated. I had spent days inside watching yet more daytime TV, news reports channelling fear and quoting numbers like the start of a zombie epic; whilst reading about how major cinema releases were being pushed back (and then pushed back some more) and craved the sticky smell of the popcorn, the strangely specific purple shag carpeting, the thumbed ticket stubs and the questionably uncomfortable seats. Lager and cigarettes after the film, talking with people I had never met before, bonded by a love of that specific flick that they had paid anywhere between 4 to 11 quid for and a need to talk about an event that we had both witnessed first hand. Saint Maud allowed me that again, albeit for only 84 minutes.
Closer to home, currently I know three people who work at The Watershed cinema. Another who volunteers at The Cube cinema. Two friends who previously worked at De Lux too. As a child, I went and saw Space Jam and Toy Story 2 at the Showcase in Avonmeads. As an adult I went back and saw The Raid, and had a very futile date to see Gremlins last December. This December would have been our yearly routine visit as a family to see something Christmas themed at Watershed, interrupting a four-year tradition.
I’m emailing to pledge my support for our local cinemas and ask that you help them stay open. Cinemas are an absolute lifeline, particularly during these difficult times for everyone – 78% of us visit the cinema at least once per year.
Cinemas also help our struggling high streets – four out of five cinema-goers eat and shop locally after a show – and they support more than 20,000 UK jobs too.
But without targeted Government support, it’s going to be hard to keep cinema doors open through a perfect storm of lockdown, the high costs of rent and bills that are above and beyond staff costs and crucial releases being delayed until at least 2021.
So, as my local MP, I’m asking you to back the big screen and call for targeted support to help keep our local cinemas open when we need them most.
There are a number of ways in which you can help:
– Write to the Prime Minister, Chancellor or Culture Secretary to express your support for targeted measures to help our cinemas stay open
– Raise a question in the House during any relevant sessions
– Show your support for the campaign by tweeting with the hashtag #KeepTheMagicAlive
We’ve all had our own magical moments at the cinema – and now’s the time to keep that magic alive by supporting these amazing places, now and in the future. Cinema and film is not simply a lifestyle; but rather a lifeforce. And in a year of so much pain, constant need for those to reach out for help, and now – hopefully – a slight sense of rehabilitation, like a Princess Leia hologram, asking for help whilst under house arrest, with this email I’m asking for yours.
You too can sign up and message your MP at the UK cinemas site right here. Or tweet your support using the hashtag #KeepTheMagicAlive
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