Movie theaters, performing arts centers, music clubs and museums all confronted significant financial challenges for more than a year as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Spotlight Theatre in Warsaw, an independent movie theater owned by Scott and Tami Treutlein, had to close for months during the pandemic. With zero income, there was tremendous pressure on the Treutleins to keep the theater and their other small-town theater, Spotlight of Hornell, in Hornell, Steuben County, in business.
Many other venues were similarly affected. They relied on faithful patrons and alternative funding sources to keep them going.
One bit of good news was the $16.2 billion made available through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. Overseen by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the SVOG program was funded by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act enacted by Congress in December and the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March.
Eligible applicants “may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant,” according to the SBA website. Of the $16.2 billion allocated for the program, “at least $2 billion is reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to 50 full-time employees,” the agency reported.
The money will help local organizations make ends meet as we work to move beyond the pandemic.
Spotlight Theater in Warsaw was among a number of venues in Western New York – though the only one in the four-county GLOW region – to receive a grant.
The Treutleins received nearly $400,000 in grants for their theaters in Warsaw and Hornell. The money – $170,$428 for the Warsaw venue, and $219,359 for Hornell – is being used to cover operating expenses such as rent, utilities insurance, taxes and payroll for its employees.
Scott Treutlein said while the theater was mostly stable the funds would help pay for renovations and expansion prior to the pandemic.
“Without that assistance, we likely would not have been able to fully cover those payments, and would have eventually had to consider tough choices like a permanent closure,” Scott Treutlein told The Daily News in September.
The theater, though closed for about seven months, was more fortunate than others. Movie theaters were kept closed the longest out of any industry in the state, and many theaters around the country did not reopen. Closed theaters do not generate revenue, while bills, taxes and other costs continue to accrue without paus.
Thanks to the SBA grant and other support the two Spotlight theaters managed to avoid a permanent shutdown and are again showing first-run movies on their big screens.
“It has profoundly affected us,” Scott Treutlein told The Daily News following an Aug. 19, 2020, “Save our Cinemas” rally in East Aurora in which lawmakers and business owners on both sides of the political aisle called for New York movie theaters to reopen.
Spotlight Theater and other cinemas reopened in October 2020. The Spotlight Theatre resumed a weekend schedule with the animated “The Addams Family 2” and live-action “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” are showing this weekend and Oct. 6. Next week, the new James Bond film, “No Time to Die” joins the theater’s screening choices.
As the economy recovers and we continue to work toward lowering rates of infection from the coronavirus, we should take advantage of the organizations that enhance cultural life in the four-county GLOW region of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.
“Our patrons who have returned are amazing,” Scott Treutlein said. “We hope that they are enjoying the unreplaceable experience of seeing a move in a theater, and that they feel completely safe in doing so.”
The SVOG program has helped these venue through this difficult time, which gives us a chance to help reconnect with and support our local arts organizations.