Cosmo Theatre in Merrill among recipients of state COVID-19 Theater Grants
By Jeremy Ratliff
MERRILL – On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Governor Tony Evers announced that $10 million from the COVID-19 Movie Theater Grant Program has been awarded to 54 movie theater operators across the state, including the Cosmo Theatre, 813 E. Main St., Merrill.
The program will provide critical funds to assist movie theaters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Wisconsin businesses across industries and communities have felt the strains of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and movie theaters have been (hit) particularly hard as they also battle stalled movie production,” Evers said. “Movie theaters are often a corner stone of our main street businesses, and I am glad we were able to get these funds out the door to help them keep theirs open.”
Funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds and administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), the COVID-19 Movie Theater Grant program provides eligible grantees average awards of $14,600 per eligible movie theater screen in Wisconsin. Grant funds can be applied towards pandemic-related operational costs, such as facility improvements to provide appropriate social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and personnel costs necessary to provide appropriate COVID-19 safeguards.
The Cosmo Theatre’s grant totals $43,859.65.
“Funds will be invested in sanitation equipment and changes to ensure we are operating in the most efficient, safest way possible,” said co-owner Shelby Dzwonkowski. “The Cosmo Theatre is incredibly grateful to be part of Governor Evers’ theatre relief package. We have been operating the Cosmo at a loss for the last several months in hopes of a turnaround in the industry. This is not something we can maintain long-term, so it is an incredible relief to know we will be able to continue serving our community until there is an answer. The Cosmo has been part of Merrill for over 90 years, and we would like to see it operating long after we are gone. It is an important part of the fabric of our community.”
In addition to the Cosmo Theatre, four other northcentral Wisconsin theatres received grant awards, including the Palace Theatre in Antigo, the Broadway Theatre in Medford, Rhinelander’s Rouman Cinema and the Vilas Cinema in Eagle River.
“The National Association of Theater Owners of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (NATO-WI & UP) is deeply appreciative of Governor Evers’ efforts to help Wisconsin’s movie theaters,” the organization stated in a press release issued on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
“Governor Evers and his administration recognize that various industries, including movie theaters, are facing overwhelming challenges,” stated George Rouman, President of NATO- WI&UP and owner of Rouman Cinema in Rhinelander. “These grants will bridge us through what is expected to be a very difficult holiday period and the fear that we may not see a major new release from a Hollywood studio until March or April. After suffering nearly complete closure for most of 2020 with almost zero revenue, this lifeline will help movie theaters survive in Wisconsin, but only in the short term. Long term we need action at the federal level, by our U.S. Senators and congressional delegation. Without federal assistance it’s estimated that 69% of all small and mid-sized movie theater companies in the U.S. will be forced to file for bankruptcy or close permanently by the end of January. We are thankful to be operating in a state like Wisconsin that has identified our struggle, and also recognizes the cultural importance that our movie theaters have in their communities.”