Knoxville’s premier performing arts venues have received critical funding following closures and revenue-halting restrictions during the pandemic.
Tennessee Theatre received $3,771,872.11, and Bijou Theatre received $1,083,198 through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, which provides emergency assistance for eligible venues and organizations affected by COVID-19.
The grant allows recipients to recoup expenses and recover from the period when they were unable to earn revenue. Funds will be used to repay eligible expenses in 2020 and 2021, including but not limited to payroll, ticket refunds, utilities, maintenance and repair, insurance, taxes and fees.
“This grant provoked a sigh of relief but also a gasp of rejuvenation,” Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said. “Thanks to a combination of significant cost-cutting decisions, the generosity of donors, leadership of our board, and dipping into emergency reserves, the Tennessee Theatre was able to survive going dark when concerts and shows stopped in March 2020. These funds will return the theatre to whole and financially as sound as we were in February 2020. This is cause for all patrons and residents to rejoice.
“The Official State Theatre of Tennessee can resume entertaining and educating and serving the community, calling Knoxville home for another 93 years – at least.”
Both the Tennessee Theatre and Bijou Theatre are non-profit organizations that, in addition to serving as entertainment venues, are dedicated to supporting and advancing arts and culture in East Tennessee and preserving the legacy of their respective historic buildings. Both rely on fundraising, including the generosity of the community, public funding, private donors and corporate sponsors – in addition to income from ticketed events – to support the preservation of the facilities and advance their mission.
“More than 16 months without artists on stage and without fans and friends in seats was brutal,” Bijou Theatre Executive Director Courtney Bergmeier said. “But as we all know, even without ticket and concession sales and other income, we continued to pay many expenses. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant positions the Bijou to pick up where we left off at the start of this pandemic, not digging out of financial worry due to it. Now we are even more confident in our financial stability, and as we reopen our doors and welcome our patrons, we are grateful and hopeful: the show must – and will – go on.”
Both executive directors praised their respective staff for the hard work and support in applying for the grant and preparing supporting documentation. They also thanked their boards for critical support and leadership during closures necessitated by the pandemic.
The SVOG program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act. The program includes more than $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues across the United States, to be administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Office of Disaster Assistance. The funding has been awarded to thousands of organizations throughout the country.
About the Tennessee Theatre
Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie palace. The Tennessee Theatre is the Official State Theatre of Tennessee and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Theatre is the region’s leading performing arts facility with advanced technology, staging and lighting that draws top entertainment to the Knoxville area. The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation is a nonprofit organization tasked with maintaining and preserving the historic theatre and ensuring diverse arts and cultural entertainment remains in downtown Knoxville. For more information, visit www.tennesseetheatre.com.
About the Historic Bijou Theatre
The Bijou Theatre is a historic non-profit theatre located in downtown Knoxville, Tenn. Built-in 1909 as an addition to the Lamar House Hotel, the building has served as a hotel, civil war hospital, vaudeville theatre, and movie house. After a restoration and grand reopening in 2006, the Bijou Theatre is a beloved performance venue known for its impeccable acoustics and intimate atmosphere hosting over a hundred music and performance art events each year.