It seems a long time since I last visited a New Zealand cinema but it good to see many stirring back to life. Some cinemas (such as the Academy in Auckland) were quite innovative during those long weeks when all screens were dark; offering online access to recent films.
The Doc Edge Festival 2020 has just released its programme; some 83 documentaries online over the period 12 June to 5 July. I don't really know where to begin with that, but we will give it go. This will be closely followed by the NZ International Film Festival; again online, running from 24 July to 2 August.
Both events will offer convenience and reduced costs (no more snatched meals between films) but I continue to miss the real cinema experience. I am also worried about the possible future viability olf some independent cinemas around New Zealand and I took it upon myself to send a message to Grant Robertson (Minister of Finance0, which was passed on to Stuart Nash (Minister for Small Business). His reply is as below;
Thank you for your email of 22 April 2020 to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Hon Grant Robertson with your concerns regarding the state of independent cinemas in New Zealand as a result of COVID-19. As the matters you raised fall within my responsibilities as Minister for Small Business, I am responding to your email.
I appreciate your message of support for the Government’s direction through the current crisis. I am aware of the impacts and uncertainty that COVID-19 is bringing to many businesses at this time.
I acknowledge your concern regarding the hardships many independent cinema owners are experiencing during the COVID-19 response.
While the Government has already acted swiftly in response to the crisis, with about $20 billion in support already announced, it recognises that more is needed. Feedback and comment from both the public and the tax industry has played an important role in formulating the Government’s decisions and we continue to work with various business groups and industry leaders. From these discussions it is clear New Zealand needs to work as one to respond to these unprecedented times.
The Government has announced a suite of measures to provide relief for small and medium- sized businesses, like independent cinemas, during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included investing $25 million over the next 12 months for business consultancy support. This funding will provide tailored support services to help businesses weather the storm, at no charge to the business (up to the value of $5000). Using established services, including the Regional Business Partner Network, and the helplines run by the Employers and Manufacturers Association and Canterbury Chamber of Commerce, you can get specialist, tailored advice where it is needed, fast. This could range from human resources advice to business continuity planning to financial management. You can register at: www.regionalbusinesspartners.co.nz.
Independent cinemas are advised to contact Business Mentors New Zealand. Business Mentors New Zealand is committed to helping small business owners, emerging business entrepreneurs and social enterprise decision-makers make better business decisions. Its mentoring service introduces small business owners and social enterprise executive officers to skilled Business Mentors who will assist them in advancing their business capability, capacity and sustainability by sharing their knowledge and experience.
If independent cinema owners call the 0800 209 209 number now, they will be put through to a person who will assist them into a code to bypass payment. If they have one-off urgent enquiries, they send these to email@example.com and they will be assisted.
In addition to the above, the Government is also introducing the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme. The Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme will provide interest-free loans for a year to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic shock to support their immediate cashflow needs and meet fixed costs. Many businesses have had little or no revenue through Alert Level 4 and Level 3. This scheme is designed to give them access to cashflow to meet fixed costs on concessionary terms. The loans will provide assistance of up to $100,000 to firms employing 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.
The scheme will provide $10,000 to every firm and $1800 per equivalent full-time employee. Loans will be interest free if they are paid back within a year. The interest rate will be 3 per cent for a maximum term of five years. Repayments are not required for the first two years.
The eligibility criteria are the same as for the Wage Subsidy Scheme. Businesses will also have to declare that they are a viable business, they will use the money for core business operating costs and enter into a legally binding loan contract.
The scheme will be administered by Inland Revenue who will be taking applications from 12 May 2020, and pay out very shortly thereafter.
You can keep up to date with the latest information on the Government’s response initiatives at: https://covid19.govt.nz; there is also a government helpline (0800 779 997) for broader government advice.
Please be assured that we are monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 closely, and will continue to respond as the situation changes.
These are difficult times for many New Zealanders. Yet we can all contributing to eradicating this virus by following public health advice. For many of us, this is the most important thing we can do for our community during this tough period.
Thank you again for writing. Yours sincerely
Minister for Small Business
Geoff Lealand was an Assoc Prof in Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato from 1992 to 2017. Now retired (not a word he favours), he writes social history, maintains this site, its Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as going to the cinema at least twice weekly.