Back in 2008, when the US government bailed out the US banking sector, it became clear that virtually any industry in America's $18 trillion economy could pass off for "too big to fail." So fast forward to today when the longest expansion in history has mutated in under a month into the biggest market crash since the Great Depression, and sure enough, virtually any industry is trying to get bailed out.
Consider this - until today, the US government and by implication US taxpayers, had received bailout requests both direct or indirect from:
- The Airline Industry
- The Public transportation industry
- The Hotel and lodging industry
- The Restaurant Industry
- And, of course, Boeing.
And now, demonstrating just how fucked up everything has become once the government has opened the Pandora's Box of government bailouts, US movie theaters are also demanding a bailout.
That's right: movie theaters are now somehow a systemically important industry, one which deserves billions in taxpayer funds. And even if it doesn't, well everyone else is getting bailed out so why not them too.
According to AP, the National Association of Theater Owners (also known as NATO, but definitely not to be confused with that other NATO), the trade group that represents most of the industry’s cinemas, said Wednesday that it’s asking for immediate federal help for its chains and its 150,000 employees. The theaters are requesting loan guarantees for exhibitors, tax benefits for employees and funds to compensate for lost ticket sales and concessions.
Just because that's how things are done in the US where moral hazard is the name of the game. Every game.
The organization said the movie theater industry is "uniquely vulnerable" to the crisis, and needs assistance to weather a near total shutdown of two to three months. It wasn't clear how society would collapse if there were no movie theaters after three months, especially with most Americans now having a streaming service pumping non-stop crap into their TV 24/7, but we are confident McKinsey will be hired soon to come up with a pretty slideshow explaining it all.
"This is an unprecedented challenge to the business," said John Fithian, president and chief executive of NATO. "We’re looking to Congress and White House to understand this is a cultural institution where people gather."
Ah... so any "cultural institution where people gather" is now eligible for a bailout. At least back in 2008 one could make a case that banks actually are important. After all they hold your money. But now, well, the collapse of theaters threatens to tear society apart.
Fithian didn’t give a specific dollar amount for what the industry is seeking but said theaters could be saved for a fraction of what the airline industry is requesting, because if airlines deserve a bailout, theaters certainly do too. For less than the cost of one airline company, Fithian said, movie theaters could be kept afloat.
In short: just show me the damn money.
“We want our policy makers to know that at the end of this thing, when people have been cooped up in their house for several months, they’ll need a break to go out and do something collectively that’s affordable and fun and away from what they’ve just been through,” he said. "But we still need to be viable."
In other words, when this is all over, we want to be sitting on a beach, earning 20%, or rather -20% in this day and age, on the money the idiot taxpayers threw at us.
NATO also said it will supply $1 million in aid for out-of-work movie theater employees, the majority of whom are paid hourly. It wasn't clear if he demanded $1 billion for the privilege of passing on 0.1% to his customers. “Starting tomorrow, most of them won’t be paid anything," said Fithian, which ironically describes something once upon a time known as capitalism.
Earlier this week, US movie theaters closed nationwide, shuttering nearly all of the country’s cinemas including its largest chains, AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas. The closures followed federal guidelines against gatherings of more than 10 people. Hollywood has postponed nearly all March and April releases, and many May ones, too.
In the meantime, some studios have moved their new releases to on-demand platforms, a rare breaking of the traditional 90-day theatrical window. Universal earlier announced that “The Hunt,” “Invisible Man” and “Emma” will be released for home viewing on Friday. On Wednesday, Sony Pictures said the Vin Diesel sci-fi thriller “Bloodshot,” which opened in theaters last Friday, will be available for digital purchase Tuesday.
“Sony Pictures is firmly committed to theatrical exhibition and we support windowing,” Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman said in a statement. "This is a unique and exceedingly rare circumstance where theaters have been required to close nationwide for the greater good."
This means that a far bigger risk for theaters - which no taxpayer in their right mind will ever agree to subsidize, let alone bailout - is not that Americans don't frequent them for the next 2-3 months due to the pandemic, but that studios realize that they stand to make far more money by "collapsing the window" entirely and transitioning to a "Straight to streaming" service across the industry. Because in case NATO (the other NATO) failed to notice, "cultural institutions where people gather" died years ago courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley oligarchs who have made society optional.