EUGENE, Ore. – A bill in the Oregon legislature would provide millions of dollars in relief for movie theaters, and the owner of the Broadway Metro in Eugene urged lawmakers to move forward with its passage.
House Bill 3376 would direct the Oregon Business Development Department to create a grant program where theaters could receive $50,000 in relief, plus $10,000 for each addition screen for theaters that have more than two screens.
Two other Eugene theaters, Bijou Art Cinemas and David Minor Theater, closed their doors indefinitely during the pandemic.
“In Eugene alone, we are the only surviving independent cinema,” wrote Broadway Metro owner Edward Schiessl. “We have been and will continue to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, but we desperately need your help if we don’t want to default on our bank loans and lose our business— and our homes— in the process.”
Schiessl said his business is racking up debt to the tune of $65,000 each month, with no revenue to offset the costs of owning a theater.
HB 3376 sponsor Rep. Rob Nosse of Portland said this is a situation many theaters are facing.
“All these theaters have suffered in some way due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while some have been able to show limited movies outside or sell popcorn or other concessions items, candidly, this is probably not enough to keep these theaters afloat,” Nosse said during a recent legislative hearing.
Eugene resident Shannon Wellborn said she worries about will happen to small theaters after the pandemic if something doesn’t change.
“It’s a staple downtown. To take that away would break a lot of hearts for people that are into theaters,” Wellborn said.
Wellborn said she would like to see theaters increase their prices by a few dollars, if it means preventing them from going under.
Currently, the theater relief bill is working its way through the Ways and Means committee.