Published: 8/5/2021 5:45:32 PM
Monadnock Region entertainment venues have been awarded more than $1.3 million in federal funds meant to help arts organizations hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Representatives from at least two area venues had previously called on federal officials to expedite the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which launched this spring, saying the relief is needed to rehire staff and recover lost revenue.
Keene Cinemas will get the largest grant – $668,000 – of the five local recipients, which the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced recently. The other Monadnock Region organizations awarded relief are The Colonial Performing Arts Center in Keene, the Peterborough Players theater group, the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson and the Jaffrey-based Raylynmor Opera.
Across New Hampshire, 53 venues will get more than $25 million through the federal program, according to data the SBA published Tuesday.
Entertainment facilities like performing-arts theaters, cinemas and live-music venues can receive up to 45% of their 2019 revenue or $10 million, whichever is less, from the federal program. That aid can be spent on payroll, rent and utilities, administrative costs and marketing fees – though it can’t be used to buy real estate or pay off loans taken out after February 2020.
Keene Cinemas owner Andrew Freeman said Tuesday the theater has already used some of its grant money to rehire several of the 14 employees it let go last year, when the business closed in the early months of the pandemic. (Until recently, he and his family had run the cinema on their own after it resumed showings last summer.)
Freeman, who has said he was among the thousands of people who flooded an application portal for the SBA program when it opened, causing it to crash, told The Sentinel in June that Keene Cinemas has “been holding on for dear life” during the pandemic. As of that time, his business had heard very little from the SBA on its request for aid, he said.
Having now gotten that relief, Freeman said Tuesday it will go toward rent and utilities, in addition to payroll costs.
“We’re definitely appreciative of the effort the SBA took to get it done, even if it took longer than expected,” he said. “… It’s just about keeping the lights on while people get comfortable coming back to the movies.”
Venue operators gained some powerful allies in June, when a bipartisan group of U.S. senators – including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both New Hampshire Democrats – urged federal officials to release the grant funding.
Shaheen applauded the SBA relief in a July 29 news release, saying it will “provide a lifeline for our favorite local establishments.”
“Live venues and cultural institutions were crushed by the pandemic – with forced closures and shrinking attendance causing devastating financial fallout,” she said. “Especially as the highly contagious Delta variant ripples through our communities, our live venues deserve every resource possible to keep their doors open.”
Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, ext. 1420, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.