COVID-19 Preparedness Resources

As of March 15, 2020 many art house cinemas have made the difficult decision to temporarily close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that causes respiratory illness. Art houses have taken this step in compliance with public health guidelines and in solidarity with their communities. 

In order to help our network navigate this rapidly evolving situation, Art House Convergence is updating this webpage daily. To facilitate resource sharing we have also created an open database for art houses and festivals that we will be reviewing regularly.

On March 16 the White House advised people to avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more for two weeks, an intensification of the CDC ‘s recommendation to cancel or postpone events with more than 50 attendees for 8 weeks (March 15 – May 10, 2020), prompting the closure of theaters throughout the United States.

During temporary closures, art houses around the world are working together to innovate and develop film programming and education for digital platforms. Art House Convergence strongly encourages film lovers to invest in their local art house now so that theaters can continue to serve them in the future. 

Administration & CARES Act
Advocate for Arts Funding and Support
Online Platforms and Solutions
Virtual Cinemas
Virtual Live Events 
Bringing Programming Online
Bringing Education Online 
Member Benefits
Reduce Expenses
Human Resources & Staffing
Prevent the Spread of Misinformation & Racist Rhetoric
Resources for Individuals
Mitigation When Open
More Resources

Temporarily closed? Add your art house here.

Administration & CARES Act

    • Review updated tax provisions. Tax return filing dates have been extended to July 15, 2020 and corporate tax payments are delayed until October 15, 2020. Read more here.
    • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
      • Download the Small Business Owners Guide.
      • Paycheck Protection Program. Businesses with under 500 employees may qualify for federally guaranteed loans to cover the cost of payroll and may be eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the amount spent on costs including payroll, rent, and utilities. Small businesses are eligible to apply if they were harmed by COVID-19 between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. Read more here. Access the application here.
      • Emergency Economic Disaster Loans. This program provides emergency advances of up to $10,000 to small businesses and non-profits harmed by COVID-19. EIDLs are low interest loans of up to $2million. These grants are available between January 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Apply here.
      • Small Business Debt Relief Program. This program provides relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 7(a), 504, and micro-loans. SBA will cover all payments on these loans including principal, interest, and fees for six months.
      • Employee Retention Credit. This provision provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by eligible employers to certain employees during COVID-19 crisis.  The credit is available to employers, including non-profits, whose operations have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings.  This credit is not available to employers receiving assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. More information available here.
      • Delay of Payment of Employer Payroll Taxes. This provision would allow taxpayers to defer paying the employer portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020, with all 2020 deferred amounts due in two equal installments, one at the end of 2021, the other at the end of 2022. Payroll taxes that can be deferred include the employer portion of FICA taxes, the employer and employee representative portion of Railroad Retirement taxes (that are attributable to the employer FICA rate), and half of SECA tax liability. This deferral is not available to employers receiving assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program.
      • Seeking support from a business counselor? Find a local resource partner here.
    • Review updated tax provisions. Tax return filing dates have been extended to July 15, 2020 and corporate tax payments are delayed until October 15, 2020. Read more here.
    • Contact your landlord or lender, renegotiate payments schedules and terms.
    • Review your insurance policy and contact your insurance provider to determine if your business interruption and liability insurance include any coverage for an outbreak in your community. Even without explicit coverage for pandemics of communicable diseases, theaters can file a claim.
    • Review existing contracts and check force majeure and cancellation clauses to ensure that they include protection during epidemics and pandemics. Communicate with your board and key stakeholders about financial risks and liability.
    • Contact you vendors and suppliers, anticipate changes in demand and respond accordingly.
    • Protect your liquidity. Assess how long you can operate during a period of temporary closure and identify expense reductions that can extend this period. Make financial plans for variable outcomes ranging from 1-12 months of potential interruptions.

Advocate for Arts Funding and Support

Online Platforms and Solutions

Virtual Cinemas

  • What are virtual cinema screenings? Virtual cinema screenings are ticketed screenings of films unavailable on any other VOD platform that viewers can enjoy from the privacy of their own home. Once a customer purchases a ticket they will receive access to a temporary film rental.
  • How can viewers enjoy a virtual screening? Audiences can buy tickets through their local art house cinema.
  • How does this support independent theaters? Virtual screenings allow theaters to keep programming films, even when their doors are closed. A portion of each ticket sale will go directly to the buyer’s local art house cinema.
  • Which films are available? Distrib Films, Film Movement, Grasshopper, Kino Lorber, Magnolia, Music Box Films, Oscilloscope, and Sentient.Art.Films are all currently offering virtual cinema screenings.
  • How many films should my theater book at once? We recommend theaters offer the same number of films they usually do. If you regularly book four films and have capacity to market, promote, and discuss four, then you should adhere to your established model.
  • How do we help our patrons navigate the tech? Offer a FAQ like this one from the Coolidge or this one from the Jacob Burns Film Center.
  • ArtMattan Films. Currently Foreign Body, Gurumbé: Afro-Andalusian MemoriesNaomi’s Journey, The Man Who Mends Women: The Wrath of Hippocrates, The Citizen, Sins of the Flesh, Uncovered, Rosa Chumbe, 2 Weeks in Lagos and Tazzeka are available. Watch on your computer, tablet, or via Chromecast.
  • Distrib Films: Currently Balloon and The Perfect Nanny are availableWatch on your computer, tablet, or via Chromecast.
  • Film Movement: Film Movement is offering films through Film Movement Plus – Virtual Cinema. Currently Corpus ChristiZombi ChildThe Wild Goose LakeL’Innocente, The Etruscan Smileand Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands are available. Watch on your computer, tablet, Chromecast or through the Film Movement Plus app for Roku, AppleTV, AndroidTV, and FireTV.
  • Grasshopper: Currently Vitalina Varela is available.
  • Kino Lorber: Kino Lorber is offering films through Kino Marquee. Currently Bacurau,  Beanpole, Mephisto and Sorry We Missed You are available. Watch on your computer, tablet, Chromecast, or through the Kino Now app on Roku or AppleTV.
  • Magnolia: Currently The Whistlers and Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson are available. Before April 2, 100% of proceeds go to the host theater. Watch on your computer, tablet, or via Chromecast.
  • Music Box Films: Music Box Films is offering films through Music Box StreamLocal. Currently And Then We Danced is available. Watch on your computer, tablet, or via Chromecast.
  • Oscilloscope Films: Currently Saint Frances is available. Watch on your computer, tablet, or via Chromecast.
  • Sentient.Art.Films: Sentient.Art.Films is offering films through Sentient 1000. Currently No Data Plan is available. Watch on your computer, tablet, Chromecast, or through the Vimeo app on Roku or AppleTV.
  • Zeitgeist Films: Currently The Woman Who Loves Giraffes is available through Kino Marquee. Watch on your computer, tablet, or via Chromecast.

Virtual Live Events (and Security)

  • Staff as you would any special program.
  • Keep your event secure. For Zoom, this means never post your link publicly, and adjust settings, to make sure the host has control over the meeting.
    • Participant Video (Off)
    • Join Before Host (Off)
    • Mute Participants Upon Entry (On)
    • File Transfer (Off)
    • Screen Sharing (Off)
    • Allow removed participants to rejoin (Off).

Bringing Programming Online

  • In partnership with Nitehawk Cinema, Film Bot is developing Movie Night, live virtual special events featuring screenings and filmmaker Q&As. Audience members will be able to dedicate their ticket purchase to their local art house. If you are interested in participating, sign up here.
  • Have a viewing party using live streaming technologies like Vimeo, Twitch, or Facebook Live. Recently the Belcourt Theatre hosted a Space Jam viewing party using Twitch, and Northwest Film Forum and the Ann Arbor Film Festival brought their film festivals online including filmmaker conversations using Vimeo.
  • Help your audience navigate streaming platforms with curated lists and staff picks. The Old Greenbelt Theatre recently created a list of animation for kids, and Coral Gables Art Cinema has been curating three films daily for their virtual series Gables Cinema Drive-In.
  • Host a virtual Q&As or talk back. Bright Lights at Emerson has an April conversation planned with director Rachel Mason about her film Circus of Books.
  • Host Online Trivia via Zoom or Facebook Live.
  • Seed&Spark is developing a solution that will allow festivals to take their program online. Read their 2020 Film Festival Survival Pledge, download the one sheet here, and fill out their survey here.
  • Sign up for the biweekly working group here. The next meeting will be Thursday April 9 at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET.

Bringing Education Online

  • Adapt class structure for your new platform. Consider keeping class duration to 1-2 hours, and find ways to engage participants using chat functions.
  • Avid (through April) and Adobe Creative Cloud (through May) are offering temporary remote licenses for educational customers. If you are already a customer you might qualify.
  • Teach a found footage production class. Filmmaker Irene Lusztig (Yours in Sisterhood) has created a database of accessible online digital movie image materials.
  • Invite faculty or your education team to partner on an education seminar via Zoom. Check out the Belcourt’s Anatomy of Cinema
  • Sign up for the biweekly working group here. The next meeting will be Wednesday April 8 at 10am PT/ 1pm ET.

Member Benefits

  • MUBI, a curated streaming service for art house and independent films, is offering 3 months of free streaming access to your art house’s members complete with a bespoke landing page for your theater. Email knewmark(at) for details.
  • Music Box Direct, a streaming service featuring films including Transit and Frantz, is offering one month of free streaming access to your art house’s members. Email bschultz(at) for details.
  • Engage filmmakers, professors, and staff to host special virtual happy hours and film conversations as member benefits.


  • Mobilize your members, encourage people to donate ticket revenue for cancelled programs.
  • Oscilloscope Films wants to partner with art houses to promote a digital SXSW showcase, and pay them a marketing fee. Interested theaters can sign up here.
  • Magnolia Selects and Spotlight Cinema Networks are offering art house theaters 100% of the subscription fees when their patrons sign up for Magnolia Selects.  After July 1, fees will be divided on a 50/50 split between the theater and Spotlight/ Magnolia. Read more here.
  • Encourage sponsors to support your new initiatives and virtual programs. Offer email logo placement as a sponsor benefit.
  • Reach out to local community foundations and emergency grant programs.
  • Remain active and keep your supporters updated about progress.
  • Have a virtual fundraiser. Seed&Spark is working to develop crowd funding solutions for theaters. Download their one-sheet here and fill out their survey here. Consider virtual Q&As, swag, and posters as benefits.

Communications & Marketing 


  • Continue to celebrate your mission. Arts and culture still matter, continue to make your unique mission central to your conversations with donors.
  • Tell your story. Explain what support will be used for and personalize your asks.
  • Pace yourself. Because of uncertainty about the duration of closures, roll out fundraising initiatives slowly.
  • Mobilize your Board. Encourage Board members who are able to pay dues in advance.

Reduce Expenses

  • Cancel all non-essential subscriptions including software, all advertising (print, social media, digital), concessions ordering, and shipping.
  • Adjust your thermostat.
  • Contact your landlord about rent relief. Research business eviction protections in your city or town.
  • Contact your bank or lender about mortgage or loan payment relief.


  • Carefully annotate your building closing checklist. Make sure multiple staffers have the tools and information they need for data backups, bank deposits, building security, and reopening.
  • Prepare your projectors and servers for an extended shutdown. Instructions from Boston Light & Sound are available here.
  • Check concession stands for perishable items. The Onyx Theatre in Nevada City, CA donated remaining treats to staff.
  • Establish a telecommuting infrastructure.
  • Communicate closure to distributors, Deluxe, and Cinevizion.


Human Resources & Staffing 

  • Remain in regular communication with staff. Leadership should establish clear communications plans to help team members understand workflow and decision making.
  • Counter stigma by disseminating accurate information about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Speak out against negative behaviors, and maintain employee confidentiality.
  • Establish compassionate and clearly communicated staffing protocols to account for workplace disruptions. Plan for work redistribution, flexible schedules, and increased absenteeism.
  • If staff need to perform work onsite provide additional supplies to regularly clean workspaces (alcohol-based hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, tissues, hands-free waste receptacles).
  • Ensure that your sick and leave policies are consistent with public health guidelines and that staff are informed about these policies. Whenever possible, offer paid sick leave.
  • All employee health information is confidential, even during a crisis. Employers should not reveal the identities of infected employees.
  • In most circumstances the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking employees about health conditions. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does allow for some exceptions to mitigate the negative impact of pandemics in the workplace. The EEOC recommends that employers follow CDC guidelines and has provided additional guidance about employer actions during an influenza pandemic.

Prevent the Spread of Misinformation and Racist Rhetoric

  • Do not ignore racist remarks, condemn racist rhetoric and actions when they occur.
  • Do not use images or terms that reinforce negative stereotypes like “Wuhan virus.”
  • Discuss and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies with volunteers and staff.
  • Monitor social media platforms for racist behaviors.
  • Craft your own public statement. Resources are available from the Association for Asian American Studies and Asian American Journalists Association.

Resources for Individuals 

  • Pioneer’s Assistance Fund  COVID-19 Emergency Grant: One-time grants for movie theater workers laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19.
  • Learn how to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • You may be able to temporarily pause payments on Federal Student Loans without interest accruing. Read more here.
  • If your employer provided health-insurance has been terminated you may qualify for medicaid. Read more here.
  • The CDC currently recommends that individuals and families have access to two weeks worth of important supplies and medications. However, do not stockpile. Panic buying masks, cleaning supplies, canned goods, and sanitizers contributes to shortages, price gouging, and puts vulnerable community members at risk.

Mitigation When Open

  • Include a public announcement about steps your theater is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Discourage sick patrons from attending screenings. Offer full refunds to sick patrons.
  • Enhance cleaning efforts: prepare cleaning checklists, stagger screenings to allow more time for cleaning between shows, regularly clean surfaces and touch-points (knobs, railings, touchscreens, dispensers).
  • Make hand sanitizer, napkins, tissues, and soap readily available to guests.
  • Make trash cans readily available for the disposal of tissues and napkins. Change trash regularly.
  • Reduce capacity so that audience members can sit 2-3 seats apart.
  • Post hand washing instructions at sinks.
  • Minimize touching customers phones, credit cards, and tickets. If possible allow customers to swipe or insert cards themselves.

More Resources

Note: We will regularly update this post as the situation evolves. Last updated at 9:41 AM ET on April 2, 2020.