Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher.

Independent cinema operators under financial hardship as a result of the pandemic will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to $85,000 after the Federal Government announced $20 million for the sector.

Administered by Screen Australia, the Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods (SCREEN) Fund will assist independent cinema operators who have experienced “significant” declines in revenue with business continuity grants.

The funding comes after the Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA) lobbied the Prime Minister and Treasurer to take further action in assisting local independent cinemas impacted by COVID-19 via a series of meetings held at venues in Sydney and across Australia.

According to ICA, independent cinemas have been operating at less than half of pre-pandemic levels since the beginning of the year.

President Scott Seddon told IF that while the funding was “not a silver bullet”, it would help many cinemas “hold on”.

“We really welcome the government’s acknowledgment of the role that independent cinemas play in communities,” he said.

“In saying that, it’s not going to take us out of survival mode into recovery mode.

“I think the whole industry will need to work together in order to map out a recovery over the next year.”

In announcing the initiative, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the SCREEN Fund was expected to support up to 390 cinemas across the country.

“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,” he 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.”

ICA CEO Adrianne Pecotic said she hoped the funding would reduce some of the uncertainty for its 99 members.

“We sincerely thank the Morrison Government for supporting the independent cinema sector,” she said.

“This funding will help ensure the continuation of cinema going as part of the Australian way of life.”

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