Federal grants to save shuttered theaters

Venues rush to apply
Posted at 6:59 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 22:12:46-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — On a normal weekend, in a normal year, you might be preparing to head out to enjoy a music act or a stage play. But COVID closed a lot of those entertainment spots and starved them of the ticket sales they need to stay in business. Now a new program just opened to help.

Rialto Theater Board President Kip Volpe says when COVID rules closed the theater the board had to lay off the staff and try to use donations and other fundraising to help the theater survive.

“So we went from 5 million to let's say five and a half million dollars in revenue pre-pandemic to a few hundred thousand dollars.”

The Fox Theater went dark too and like the Rialto, had to depend on donations to keep up the historic building and hold on for the day it can re-open.

The Federal Small Business Administration has just opened applications for grants to keep shuttered venues alive until paying audiences can fill them again.

To Fox Theater Executive Director Bonnie Schock it says something, that so many venues hit the grant application site that it crashed as soon as it opened.

“That's truly the level of the kind of anxiety, that, that many organizations are facing right now, that, that, in a way, there's no. For many of us there isn't really another alternative.”

There’s limited money so not every venue will get a grant. Those that do will get up to 45 percent of their gross revenue in 2019--the last year before the pandemic---or they’ll get ten million dollars, whichever is lower.

Both Bonnie Schock and Kip Volpe say it’s not a luxury to support arts venues like theaters, it's a sensible stimulus to preserve an industry that builds jobs and attracts customers to other businesses like restaurants and hotels.

Volpe says there’s another key question Federal grants will not answer: when will touring acts be ready to step on a stage again so there’s something to bring back the customers?