Leading Hollywood industry groups and dozens of filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuarón, and Barbara Broccoli have called on US lawmakers to support an exhibition sector brought to its knees by Covid-19.

Warning that “theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic”, the National Association Of Theatre Owners, Motion Picture Association, Directors Guild Of America, and more than 70 directors, producers, and writers urged Congressional leaders for help.

They want US lawmakers to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act to help entertainment industry businesses that have suffered the most from closures and dwindling audiences, or to enact new proposals such as the RESTART Act.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi is in negotiations with US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin on a revised package that would bring a further $2.2tn in Covid-19 relief for the country.

There is no bipartisan support for the new package, which had been set for a vote on Wednesday night before Democrats delayed while talks continue. In contrast there was broad support for the CARES Act in late March that unlocked a $2.2tn stimulus package that helped industries get through the summer.

The film industry letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy read: “Absent a solution designed for their circumstances, theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has been a devastating financial blow to cinemas. 93% of movie theater companies had over 75% in losses in the second quarter of 2020.

“If the status quo continues, 69% of small and mid-sized movie theater companies will be forced to file for bankruptcy or to close permanently, and 66% of theater jobs will be lost.

“Our country cannot afford to lose the social, economic, and cultural value that theaters provide.”

The letter continued, “In addition to the 150,000 employees working in cinemas nationwide, the industry supports millions of jobs in movie production and distribution, and countless others in surrounding restaurants and retailers that rely on theaters for foot traffic.

“Movie theaters are also leaders in employing underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, senior citizens, and first-time job holders. Cinemas are an essential industry that represent the best that American talent and creativity have to offer.”

NATO president and CEO John Fithian hailed the “unprecedented support” from industry partners and the creative community.

Signatories include James Cameron, Susanne Bier, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Emma Thomas, Denis Villeneuve, Wes Anderson, Guy Ritchie, Taika Waititi, Judd Apatow, Richard Linklater, Michael Bay, Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Damien Chazelle, Patty Jenkins, Joachim Rønning, Nicole Kassell, and Barry Jenkins.