Powerful Hollywood Talent Agents And Concert Venues Formed Lobby To Get Stimulus, Won Big

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Powerful Hollywood Talent Agents And Concert Venues Formed Lobby To Get Stimulus, Won Big. Photo by Paul Deetman from Pexels

Independent music and entertainment venues that have been closed throughout the pandemic will receive critical help as part of $15 billion in dedicated stimulus funding for live music, independent movie theaters, museums and cultural institutions — proof that lobbying works.

Smaller production companies banded together to form the American Coalition for Independent Content Producers (ACICP), which includes more than 24 content production companies, distributors and sales agents. ACICP hired Washington, D.C.-based Akin Gump, the largest lobbying firm in the U.S. by revenue, to lobby for it. They sought and secured financial relief from Congress like the kind given to other major industries.

The film and TV industry has lost more than $30 billion collectively since the pandemic began, with a 58 percent cut in pilot orders, according to a recent letter the ACICP sent to congressional leaders.

Members of the new group are fighting for survival while Hollywood giants Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers — all represented by the powerful Motion Picture Association lobby — have a better cushion to survive the coronavirus recession and potentially emerge stronger with fewer competitors, The Hill reported.

California has designated the TV and movie production industry as “critical infrastructure” and allowed Hollywood studios to continue filming, giving the entertainment industry-wide leeway during the pandemic while California endures a new stay-at-home order, according to The Intercept.

Netflix, HBO and many studios are still filming shows across Los Angeles, in contrast to strict rules imposed on the average California small businesses, restaurants and individual residents. Californians face fines or imprisonment for going outside for “nonessential” travel, congregating in small groups or operating an outdoor restaurant.

Congress passed the new Covid-19 relief bill on Dec. 21 and President Donald Trump signed off on it Dec. 27. The bill will provide a grant equal to 45 percent of gross 2019 revenue capped at $10 million per entity, the National Independent Venues Association said in a statement, according to Rolling Stone. “This grant funding will ensure recipients can stay afloat until reopening by helping with expenses like payroll and benefits, rent and mortgage, utilities, insurance, PPE, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.”

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “I’m especially pleased that this bill will provide money for bars and restaurants, and $15 billion in SPA grants for theater operators and small venue operators through the Save Our Stages Act. These venues are so important to my state and so many other states across the country. They are the lifeblood of our communities. They were the first to close and will be the last to open. This bill gives them a fighting chance.”

ACICP lobbied Congress to provide insurance coverage that includes claims related to covid-19 and all communicable diseases, The Hill reported.

Under current insurance plans, insurers cover spending if a production is abandoned or delayed due to an actor’s illness, injury or death. Without a temporary federal program guaranteeing coronavirus-related risk, the coalition argues that productions will be stalled in securing financing even if they take covid-19 precautions.

“We saw a national response from the U.K., in Australia, in France even, where they tend to protect culture,” said Scott Tenley, chief business officer at MRC, the smaller production company behind the blockbuster film “Knives Out” and the Netflix series “Ozark”. “In the U.S., it was simply impossible for us to get insurance coverage that includes covid,” Tenley said.

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The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and the National Independent Talent Organization (NITA) formed  during the pandemic to fight on behalf of venues and others affected by the complete shutdown of live music.

The new stimulus will likely help countless venues stay afloat until shows and touring can resume, Jon Blistein reported for Rolling Stone.

John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, said in a statement that the “vast majority of small and mid-size U.S. movie theaters and their employees will have the resources to make it through to the end of that tunnel.”

“But Congress’ inability to pass any kind of legislation sooner forced many beloved spots around the country — like Great Scott in Boston, Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia, the Mothlight in Asheville and the Satellite in Los Angeles, among hundreds of others — to shutter permanently,” Blistein wrote.

Read more: New Stimulus Deal Reached But Only $600 Checks: 6 Things Black America Needs To Know