The National Association of Theater Owners is stepping up to help movie theater employees. The organization has set up an initial $2.4 million relief fund, with plans for more to come at a later date. Additionally, NATO has worked to create a $1.25 million fund for employees working in the industry in California and Nevada. This is aiming to provide some relief to workers in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by the situation at hand.

NATO announced Phase 1 of its grant program earlier this week, which is aimed at providing a stipend to any theater workers who meet certain criteria. The plan comes as virtually every movie theater in the U.S. has been shut down for more than two weeks, with the closure expected to last until at least June. NATO explained that the second phase of this program will extend to help a larger group of those affected by the situation.

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"The grant program is Phase 1 of an eventual two-phase assistance program. Phase 1 will provide a stipend to any theater workers who meet specific criteria. Phase 2 is being developed and will expand assistance to a larger group of people who work in the motion picture industry."

The fund that was set up in California and Nevada are to be divided proportionally to member theaters that are eligible. The amount will be based on the number of screens they operate. Employees who have worked for at least six months prior to the closing of the theater will be distributed funds. Milton Moritz, president and CEO of NATO of California/Nevada, had this to say in a statement.

"As we all know, our industry is dependent on our employees for survival, and we want to do what we can to assist them during these challenging times. Movie theaters are an essential part of the community and it is our hope that these funds will in some measure help lighten our members' employees' financial burden imposed during the current crisis."

Virtually every industry has been impacted in some way by what's happening in the world right now. But with movie theaters closed entirely, and with an uncertain future facing them once the doors are reopened, the theatrical exhibition business has been impacted particularly hard. This relief fund, at least in the short term, provides a much-needed win.

An increasing number of big movies are being delayed until much later this year, or into 2021. There is also fear that people may be hesitant to go back to the movies, for a number of reasons, once things return to normal. The situation is rapidly evolving and increasingly difficult to predict. We'll be sure to keep you posted as the situation unfolds. Those seeking more information can head on over to the National Association of Theater Owners website.