New Public-Private Fund Offers Economic Relief to Rural Theaters Impacted by COVID Closures - Gates Family Foundation

Non-profit and privately-owned theaters in rural Colorado have until December 11 to apply for grants of up to $12,500 in economic relief for rent, mortgage and utility hardships suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rural Theaters COVID-19 Support Initiative will provide up to $400,000 total in financial assistance to remote theaters across Colorado, which constitute the heart of Main Street in so many rural communities. The new initiative is made possible by a partnership between Colorado’s Office of Film, Television and Media, Gates Family Foundation, Boettcher Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation, and the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority.

“Our rural communities are essential to Colorado’s economy, and rural movie and stage theaters provide economic and cultural benefits that strengthen our communities,” said Governor Jared Polis. “This rent relief helps ensure that the iconic theaters that have brought rural communities together for generations will do so again when circumstances allow for safe group gatherings across our state.”

Learn More and Apply

“Public-private partnerships like this rural theater grant program are proving vital to help ensure that these critical community assets survive the pandemic and thrive to serve generations to come,” said Tom Gougeon, President, Gates Family Foundation. “We’re glad to partner with our colleagues in philanthropy and the public sector to help make this support possible.”

Grant awards will be distributed to rural theaters at $7,500, $10,000, or $12,500 levels depending on eligibility, need, and availability of funds. Award distribution will be determined by the theaters’ rural/remote location, proximity to other theaters, use as a multi-purpose venue (i.e., also acts as a community center, classroom, events rental venue, etc.), historic status, and overall financial need.

“In rural communities all around Colorado, the role that movie theatres play in civic life and community building cannot be overstated,” said El Pomar Foundation President and CEO, Kyle H. Hybl. “As the state continues to navigate COVID-related challenges, we believe that propping up these pillars of our communities will be key to ensuring better recovery in our rural areas and are pleased to once again partner with the State of Colorado and other foundations on this innovative initiative.”

Colorado’s Office of Film, Television and media has partnered with the Small Business Development Center network to certify each theater’s business model, as well as provide additional business consulting for theaters in need. Applicants will need to register with the SBDC and meet with a local SBDC representative for a consultation session during the application process. Award allocation will be determined by a committee made up of three OEDIT staff members, an EDC member, and a representative from one of the supporting foundations. 

“We are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort,” said Katie Kramer, Boettcher Foundation president and CEO. “Rural theaters are community hubs that serve as movie houses and more. They are gathering and event spaces for arts, cultural, and educational programming. Their viability impacts main streets and local businesses across Colorado.”

The applications window closes on December 11. The review process will take place in December with awards being distributed by mid-January 2021. To apply, visit

About Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) works with partners to create a positive business climate that encourages dynamic economic development and sustainable job growth. Under the leadership of Governor Jared Polis, we strive to advance the State’s economy through financial and technical assistance that fosters local and regional economic development activities throughout Colorado. OEDIT offers a host of programs and services tailored to support business development at every level including business retention services, business relocation services, and business funding and incentives. Our office includes the Global Business Development division; Colorado Tourism Office; Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office; Colorado Creative Industries; Business Financing & Incentives division; the Colorado Small Business Development Network; Colorado Office of Film, TV & Media; the Minority Business Office; and the Colorado Innovation Network. Learn more at