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US theatre lobby group the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has called on Congress to approve an emergency aid package for cinema workers and has pledged $1m from its own reserves to support unemployed theatre staff as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down exhibition.

The group asked Congress on Wednesday (18) for:

Loan guarantees to ease a liquidity squeeze imposed by fixed costs in the face of non-existent revenues;

Tax benefits to assist employers with providing support to employees;

Relief on the ongoing burden of costs despite closures; and

Tax measures to allow theatres to recoup losses when the industry is back up and running.

NATO said, “The business model of the movie theatre industry is uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis. As we confront this evolving and unprecedented period, we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that America’s movie theatre industry and its tens of thousands of employees across the country can remain resilient.”

NATO’s executive board has authorised the release of $1m from the Association’s reserve to help unemployed theatre workers. The money will be used as seed funds to help tide over workers during the crisis. Details of the fund will be released shortly.