Independent cinemas get emergency support from Victorian government

$12,000/venue will be a useful morsel for some city complexes, but a saving grace deep in rural Victoria.

To the delight of Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA), the Victorian state government has announced a rapid response Events Support Package worth $20 million.

Most of it will go to the events industry and live performers, but it has a separate strand for independent cinemas. As the application form says, ‘an Independent Cinema Support Program will deliver up to $12,000 to independent cinema operators unable to operate due to the COVID-19 restrictions that commenced at 11.59pm on 27 May 2021’. 

This refers to the state’s current fourth generation lockdown rather than the whole COVID period since March 2020. As ICA points out, every cinema in Victoria has been forced to close during May and June so they will all be eligible.

Businesses can use grants to:

  • Pay expenses, such as utilities, wages or rent;
  • Seek financial, legal or other advice to support business continuity planning;
  • Develop the business through marketing and communications activities; and,
  • Any other supporting activities related to the business operation.

When independent cinemas close, they will reduce their wages bill by suspending casual staff. They will probably have to dump food, and they will certainly continue to pay a substantial electricity bill since the equipment can’t be switched off. Ditto the rent. The bills will mount up quickly, so $12,000 for a multi-cinema complex is useful but pretty trivial. 

To be eligible for this program, applicants must:

  • Be based in Victoria;
  • Be privately owned;
  • Be registered as operating an independent cinema in Victoria within the ANZSIC class code 5513; and,
  • Operate one or more cinemas in Victoria, as the primary activity of the business.

What is the definition of an independent cinema? 

There isn’t one. This has been put together quickly to get the money out ‘soon’. The ANZIC class code just tells us that the companies screen motion pictures and includes drive-ins and festivals. 

Eddie Tamir’s Classic Cinema group will be eligible, while the position of Palace is not easy to determine from the guidelines. 

Applications close on Friday 16 July, or earlier if the pool of $900,000 runs out.

The much larger program covering event organisers, hosts, suppliers, producer and cinema businesses provides up to $250,000 to the largest event businesses. That whole program is part of the $500 million the government has provided over the past two weeks, while its support over the whole pandemic amounts to $600 billion. 

Documents can be found at the Business Victoria website.

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.