The Australian Federal Government has announced it is committing AUD$20 million to assist independent cinema operators.
The Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods (SCREEN) Fund, administered by Screen Australia, will assist independent cinema operators who have experienced significant declines in revenue due to the pandemic, with one-off business continuity grants of up to $85,000.
Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cites and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the SCREEN Fund is expected to support up to 390 cinemas across the country manage the significant economic, health and social challenges they are facing as a result of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on cinemas, who have struggled to recover due to circumstances that were out of their control, such as capacity restrictions and a reduced flow of new release films by major distributors,” Minister Fletcher said.
“Independent cinemas represent around 30 per cent of the cinema exhibition sector in Australia, and play a key role by providing a popular, low-cost and COVID-safe way for people to go out and enjoy a movie as part of a community – particularly in regional areas.
“We’re introducing this funding to help support the viability of independent cinemas during this period when their business circumstances are still returning to normality, as the vaccine rollout progresses and Australia moves towards higher audience capacities.”
The SCREEN Fund builds on the Government’s investment of over $800 million in additional arts and entertainment funding announced in 2020, on top of its annual investment of around $750 million in regular funding.
Industry body Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA) said it welcomed the Government’s announcement of the funding package.
“Like the tourism sector, our industry has been devastated by factors outside our control. Box office is still down about 53% on pre-pandemic levels and while we expect it to come good once there is a steady flow of films being released again, we need some short-term support until that happens. The recognition and funding announced today is incredibly welcome,” said Scott Seddon, President of ICA.
“ICA stands ready to receive further detail of the grants program and work with our independent cinema members to apply for support through Screen Australia,” said Mr Seddon “We have been encouraged by the announcement and by the support of our many customers and by MPs and Senators across Australia. We look forward to sharing a great line up of films with our patrons and local communities over Easter with a growing sense of relief and optimism.”
Adrianne Pecotic, CEO of ICA, added, “With JobKeeper coming to an end, and the floods in NSW and Queensland, our members were facing an uncertain future. We sincerely thank the Morrison Government for supporting the independent cinema sector. This funding will help ensure the continuation of cinema going as part of the Australian way of life.”