New emergency fund to aid Chicago cinema workers

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Chicago

As efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 shutter cinemas across the nation, concerned members of Chicago’s film community launch a fund to benefit laid off cinema workers from dozens of local theaters.

As one of the country’s most vibrant film scenes, Chicago is home to hundreds of theater employees, who face a loss of work and income indefinitely. The new Chicago Cinema Workers Fund, formed in partnership with fiscal sponsor Full Spectrum Features, and organizations Chicago International Film Festival and the Nightingale will provide financial relief and support for the cinema employees whose skills are the backbone of this city’s many film venues.

Donations to the Chicago Cinema Workers Fund are tax-deductible. Relief funds will be available to any worker who was recently laid off or furloughed from a movie theater in the city of Chicago due to COVID-19 who submits their information via the online Google Form before May 1, 2020.

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The fund is launching with an initial fundraising goal of $15,000, to be distributed equally among eligible applicants. The initial goal is to provide 50 workers with $300 relief, equivalent to 20 hours of work at $15 an hour.

“Movie theaters have been a second home to me throughout my ten-plus years in Chicago,” said film curator and Chicago Cinema Workers Fund co-organizer Christy LeMaster. “This fund is a way to give back and to show solidarity with those who work so hard to keep film exhibition alive in our city.”

The Chicago Cinema Workers Fund follows the model of a similar, highly-successful fundraiser in New York, which raised over $75,000 for theater employees. “Once we saw how much enthusiasm there was for the New York fundraiser, we knew that our film workers could also benefit from that kind of aid,” said Michael Metzger, another of the Chicago fund’s co-organizers.

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The fund’s organizers have partnered with Full Spectrum Features, a Chicago-based film and video production company and specialty distributor, who will serve as the Community Partner & Fiscal Sponsor for the fundraiser. Eugene Sun Park, the executive director of Full Spectrum, explains the importance of the initiative: “Movie theaters are the cornerstone of our cinema culture, and behind-the-scenes staff are the unheralded film lovers who keep these places running. Please support our cinema workers during these trying times.”

Other partners and co-organizers include Raul Benitez, programmer for Full Spectrum Features and Comfort Film; Sabrina Craig, Assistant Director of External Engagement Programs at UChicago Arts; Emily Eddy, Director of the Nightingale Cinema; Mimi Plauché, Artistic Director of the Chicago International Film Festival and Cinema/Chicago; Kat Sachs, Associate Editor for Cine-File Chicago; and Yuki Sakamoto Solomon, Chicago International Film Festival Special Projects Coordinator. “This unprecedented time has given us more appreciation for those colleagues that make our beloved film community run,” says Benitez. “By showing support for those workers, we can also keep the community strong.”

Interested donors and aid applicants can find more information at chicagocinemaworkers.com. Please direct all inquiries to chicagocinemaworkersfund@gmail.com, and follow @chicineworkers on Instagram and Twitter for updates.

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