The Belcourt Theatre is a non-profit organization, which essentially means that, despite its ticket and concessions sales, it relies on donations and grants to keep the lights on. When the pandemic set its teeth in, the fundraising wheels of the Belcourt went into immediate action out of necessity. Over the past two years, the Hillsboro Village staple tapped into multiple sources of additional revenue to ease what were, in many cases, self-induced business limitations.
First, there was the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) which the federal government dispersed to all entertainment venues that closed due to government dictate. As the pandemic waxed and waned, the Belcourt opened up briefly in the Fall of 2020 with the help of Amazon before closing again in January 2021 then finally opening back up for good in April 2021 with capacity limits and an indoor mask mandate. Amazon buoyed the theater’s decision to reduce capacity while every other theater in the area had gone mask free and full capacity by last Memorial Day. Most recently, as if two mounds of free money were not enough, the venue initiated their Resiliency Fund, which stands apart from their standard donation procedure, to protect the Belcourt during these “unprecedented times.”
As of press time, the Belcourt continues to cap ticket sales at 50% though that cap apparently does not apply to important events like Nicole Kidman’s recent introduction of The Northman. Ordering tickets online now produces a prompt declaring, “We're working to keep our community safe through responsibly distanced seating by operating at a 50% maximum capacity. We're asking you to consider helping us make up for some of those empty seats.” You are then given the option of purchasing additional tickets to make up for the self-induced 50% cap on ticket sales in addition to a $2 service fee.
As theaters around the country chucked mask mandates to the side and opened back up for business, the Belcourt lost out crucially as many of the movies typically only available for release at arthouse theaters like the Belcourt began to retreat to streaming platforms or seek other multiplexes that people actually went to. That the Belcourt required not one, not two, not three, but four different and distinct sources of income on top of their standard fundraising efforts stands as a testament to non-profit largesse and makes us wonder what value the theater provides if not selling tickets to people that want to see movies there. For that, we give them the distinction of Most Entrepreneurial for flexing their sacred status among Nashville’s creative class to take advantage of the city’s generosity while doing little to help themselves.