ICA CEO Adrianne Pecotic and president Scott Seddon.
As the industry struggles in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Independent Cinemas Association has called on both federal and state governments to provide independent cinemas tax relief and cashflow injections.
The past few days have seen Palace Cinemas temporarily shutter 17 sites and Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace close for an indefinite period. Other chains have capped sessions at 100 patrons and staggered seating. Major chain Village says it may also close its cinemas following international precedent.
The unfolding coronavirus crisis has meant the postponement of Hollywood titles Black Widow, Mulan, Fast & Furious 9, A Quiet Place II, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, No Time to Die and Into the Heights, leaving a lack of new releases. Locally, Transmission Films has pulled several upcoming releases including I Am Woman, The Very Excellent Mr Dundee and Hope Gap, and other indie distributors are likely to follow.
In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ICA president Scott Seddon asked for parliament to encourage landlords, banks and utilities to provide immediate relief to help small businesses survive through the difficult months ahead. Independent cinemas employ about 17,000 Australians.
“We are already working closely with distributors, exhibitors and suppliers to manage the long-term impact of COVID-19 but everyone is affected and more help is needed.”
“Exhibitors are facing turbulent times alongside everyone in our community,” he said.
“Our first concern is for the health of our patrons and staff. We are following government guidelines closely and have in place measures that help make your cinema visit a safe and comfortable one. But the reality is that some cinemas have had no choice but to close in response to the latest government restrictions protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.”
“We are already seeing significant reductions in numbers.
“Audiences have dropped between 55 and 76 per cent in the last week against the same period last year. The global situation has caused major films to be postponed or pulled from our schedules. An average week would see more than 1,600,000 Australians visit the cinema
“This will have a far reaching and significant impact on our regional economy.”
“There are 154 ICA member cinemas across Australia and they are unique community resources providing employment, entertainment, family outings and social cohesion. They are one of the few places our older citizens can go safely either together or alone and keep company with like-minded patrons enjoying a cuppa and a great film.”
“The cinema industry employs tens of thousands of people in Australia and we are confident that when this crisis is over the sector will recover very quickly.
“There will be lots of people with who will be looking forward to getting back to normal and enjoying time with friends – but the majority of independent cinemas are small businesses and many are in regional areas and in order to restore those tens of thousands of jobs we firstly need to survive.
“Independent Cinemas will need support from the government and from the banks and we welcome it urgently, said Seddon.
Separately, Screen Producers Australia, the Australian Directors’ Guild, the Australian Writers Guild and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance have sent a letter to government to support the screen sector as productions are halted or postponed.