By Tyler Aquilina
September 30, 2020 at 08:00 PM EDT
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Hollywood is uniting to urge U.S. lawmakers to aid movie theaters, whose business has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 70 directors, writers, and producers signed an impassioned letter on Wednesday, imploring Congress to provide financial assistance to the country's struggling cinemas.

Addressed to the Democratic and Republican leaders in both houses of Congress, the letter begins, "Thank you for your leadership at this challenging time for our country. As you consider forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation, we ask you to prioritize assistance for the hardest-hit industries, like our country’s beloved movie theaters....Absent a solution designed for their circumstances, theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic."

Noting that 69 percent of "small and mid-sized movie theater companies" will face bankruptcy without aid, the letter urges Congress to "come together on a bipartisan solution" by redirecting unused funds from the CARES Act toward "programs designed for industries like movie theaters," or to enact new legislation such as the RESTART Act.

"Our country cannot afford to lose the social, economic, and cultural value that theaters provide," the letter continues. "The moviegoing experience is central to American life. 268 million people in North America went to the movies last year to laugh, cry, dream, and be moved together. Theaters are great unifiers where our nation’s most talented storytellers showcase their cinematic accomplishments. Every aspiring filmmaker, actor, and producer dreams of bringing their art to the silver screen, an irreplaceable experience that represents the pinnacle of filmmaking achievement."

Signers include such varied filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Judd Apatow, Greta Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, Barry Jenkins, and Michael Bay, as well as the heads of the National Association of Theatre Owners, Directors Guild of America, and Motion Picture Association. (You can read the letter in full here.)

“I am extraordinarily grateful for the unprecedented support from our industry partners and the talented and concerned members of the movie industry creative community,” NATO president and CEO John Fithian said in a statement. “The value of their recognition of the unique importance of movie theaters to our communities, culture, and economy, and their support before Congress of the unique needs of movie theaters in this pandemic cannot be underestimated.”

While many movie theaters have reopened throughout the country, key markets such as New York and Los Angeles remain closed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, even theaters that are open have struggled to attract audiences wary of infection. Christopher Nolan's Tenet, the first major tentpole to open since the initial shutdown, has earned just $41.2 million domestically over four weekends. Its underwhelming performance has prompted studios to push almost all major releases into next year, depriving theaters of new blockbuster titles for months.

Nolan, a well-known proponent of the theatrical experience, urged legislative action to aid exhibitors back in March with an op-ed in The Washington Post. "He contacted us and wanted to know what he could do and we pointed him in the direction of The Washington Post for a reason, because they’re [in] our nation’s capital," NATO chief communications officer Patrick Corcoran told EW at the time. "Failure to act right now will exacerbate what’s already a bad situation. You can’t rebuild businesses that have died."

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