The show must go on

Opinion: Columns

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Chris Johnson

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In this time of crisis, it's important to remember how important movie theaters are to communities across the country.

In 2019, 1.24 billion movie tickets were sold in the U.S. and Canada — that's more than all major professional sports combined. Going to the movies remains the most affordable and convenient out-of-home entertainment option.

Classic Cinemas is headquartered in Downers Grove, and has been in business for over 40 years, bringing the magic of the movies all over the Midwest. We have employees who have been working for our company since my dad started the company in 1978. Together, we have restored theaters like The Lake and helped revitalize downtown communities. The well-being of our guests, employees and local communities has always been our top priority.

In the United States, 150,000 people are employed by our industry. Our theaters employ 453 people from age 16 to 80 in two states, and from a wide range of backgrounds. While our doors are closed, it's important to us that they do not experience financial hardship and all that it entails. Unfortunately, we can't give them all the help we need on our own. We need support to get through this time. That's why it is very important that movie theaters and our employees are included in any form of relief for businesses focused on out-of-home entertainment.

As policymakers debate the next stimulus package, we urge lawmakers to provide movie theaters with immediate help by enacting paid leave tax credits for companies supporting their furloughed employees; suspending payroll tax collections; providing incentives for property owners to defer collection of rent and mortgage payments; assuring loan guarantees; expanding tax loss carryforwards and carrybacks; and business loss tax credits. These measures and more will ensure that movie theaters and our employees remain resilient and can weather this crisis, so that when we come back, we come back strong.

Movie theaters serve as a gathering place where people meet friends, go on dates, enjoy time with their family, and share the same emotional experiences with strangers. In our auditoriums, people who would never encounter each other otherwise can laugh, gasp, and cry together.

Watching a movie and discussing it afterwards is one of the most common ways we bond. As we work through this crisis and life returns to normal, movie theaters will be more important than ever. They will serve as a source of enjoyment for millions after a very difficult time.

The show must go on.

Chris Johnson is CEO of Classic Cinemas.

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