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Proposed Legislation Would Provide $1B To Struggling Nonprofit Theaters


A group of Democratic lawmakers is proposing new legislation that would provide $1 billion annually to the nonprofit professional theater industry still struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic.

The bill, called the Supporting Theater and the Arts to Galvanize the Economy (STAGE) Act of 2024, has been introduced in Congress by Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) & Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01). The STAGE Act proposes that the government provide $1 billion annually for five years in grants administered through the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The money would be used to assist theaters in “keeping their doors open.”

The proposed legislation, spearheaded by Welch, is expected to be introduced today, though the bill will face an uphill battle in a divided Congress.

A description of the legislation – read it here – indicates that despite “the extensive economic contributions, this critical artform is struggling to survive in a post-pandemic world. Theaters are closing. Across the industry, audiences are down 20-50% from pre-pandemic levels. Without robust national investment, more nonprofit theaters will close.

“The federal aid provided during the pandemic through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was transformative and kept many nonprofit theaters open. However, the industry is experiencing a lagging recovery, fueled by profound shifts in audience behavior, economic challenges like inflation, and now federal support is running dry. With a new infusion of federal assistance, nonprofit theaters will be able to keep the marquee lights burning bright for the next generation of theatergoers.”

The grants, according to the description, could be used for paying rent and payroll, and employing artists and related or supporting professional personnel; attracting new audiences and expenses related to elements for a live theatrical production; and investing in industry workforce development.

“Most importantly, funds would ensure the survival of the professional nonprofit theater industry by directly supporting theaters and funding a study on sustaining the nonprofit arts sector,” the statement reads.



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