DELAWARE – Plays and concerts may seem foreign during the days of COVID-19 but newly proposed federal legislation might help ensure they’re still around when all this is over.
“Immediately our income was cut off 100 percent and we had to lay almost everyone off,” says Fred Munzert, the director of the Milton Theatre.
In the days of COVID-19, packed concert venues and theaters may seem like a thing of the past. “Last year we had 60-thousand people through the doors, over four hundred events. We really had a banner year for the Milton Theatre and this town. To date now we’ve only had about 10-thousand people through the doors,” says Munzert.
Many organizations spend months sometimes years preparing, planning and rehearsing with the hope of generating revenue when show time comes around. “Of course we have a mortgage, we have utilities, we have salaries,” says Dawn Conaway, the executive administrator for Possum Point Players in Georgetown.
However, venues weren’t able to see the culmination of their hard work this year and that’s impacting their bottom line. “Possum Point Players was forced to cancel two shows in our 2020 season and reschedule one,” says Conaway.
The director of the Milton Theatre says they’ve seen about 150-thousand dollars in refund requests but that’s where the Entertainments New Credit Opportunity for Relief & Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) Act comes in to play. “We don’t want this to be the day or the year that the music dies. We want to make sure this is the day that the music was saved for all of us,” says U.S. Senator Tom Carper.
The ENCORES Act would create a tax credit for live entertainment venues with fewer than 500 employees and help cover the cost of refunded tickets for shows canceled due to the pandemic. “It definitely impacted us greatly and the ENCORES Act is so desperately needed. Really any kind of assistance, loans, grants, anything like that is going to be helpful to any venue,” says Munzert.
The goal is to give these venues a chance at survival so they’re around when people need them the most. “The arts are that thing that touches us in our soul and takes us back to a place that is comfortable and familiar,” says Munzert.
Officials with the Milton Theatre say they’re hopeful for the future as they continue with plans like building a balcony and adding artist housing. Many venues across Delmarva are still holding indoor events with limited capacity as well as outdoor performances. If you want more information about how to support your local theater or concert venue, officials recommend checking their websites.
The ENCORES Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives at the end of July.
Photo Courtesy: Milton Theatre Facebook page