CBS Detroit – Representatives in Michigan’s movie theater industry are pushing for the state to allow them to re-open as they meet today in front of the Michigan Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic. With the hopes, Governor Whitmer is listening to their pleas.

According to Mlive, Rep Matt Hall, R-Marshall, who chairs the committee said, “A lot of these industries have served on workgroups created by Gov. Whitmer’s administration and they’ve submitted plans on how they can reopen safely and responsibly,”. Hall added “They’ve waited for months with no feedback. We want to hear their plans and give them a voice because no one else seems to be listening to them.”

However in a recent news conference on Tuesday, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, Whitmer was not backing down on external pressure to open theaters. Acknowledging the pressures on business owners and decision-makers, Whitmer said, “We’re going to continue to make decisions based on facts and data.”

Basing facts from CNN that said Michigan is at 87% of its pre-COVID-19 levels because of her aggressive approach, Whitmer said “this success is precarious”. Further stating that while she is assessing if businesses can safely reopen with proper protocols in place, “I’m not going to be bullied into making that decision,” she said.

As movie theaters across the state sit dark, National Association of Theater Owners Phil Contrino told MLive that Michigan is an “outlier”, with 44 other states allowing theaters to operate in some capacity.

MILWAUKEE, WI – AUGUST 17: In this screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the virtual convention on August 17, 2020. (Photo by Handout/DNCC via Getty Images)

In a recent letter to the Governor, the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Grand Rapids Chamber, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and the Detroit Regional Chamber emplored her to allow gyms, theaters, bowling alleys, and other industries to safely reopen. Saying that these businesses have been closed longer than anyone, and the hardship is making it financially difficult. Further saying these businesses should be excused from interest, penalties, and fees on property taxes they cannot pay due to their closure by the state.

When Whitmer was asked if COVID-19 outbreaks in northern Michigan could be attributed to gyms, movie theaters, or bowling alleys, the Governor responded that she wasn’t aware of any, citing outbreaks in southern Michigan to gyms that illegally opened.

State Senator Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, said it’s not the Governor who’s being bullied, but small businesses. He told the Free Press that they’re facing the prospect of going out of business permanently, even though they can re-open safely. Lawton further said that while Whitmer talks about relying on “science and data”, her decisions appear random. Such as when she shut down construction when other states didn’t, and banning the use of motorized watercraft. While relying on science and data, Nesbitt said she won’t make the data public.

Republican activist Tori Sachs wrote on Twitter “Small and family-run businesses don’t have high powered lobbyists who can call Whitmer so they can open like the Detroit casinos,”.

Tiffany Brown is Governor Whitmer’s spokesperson. When she was asked to clarify the Governor’s remarks on “bullying”, she replied, “In general, her point is that decisions will continue to be made based on facts, data, and input from experts.” Brown didn’t reply to further questions about individuals or groups attempting to bully the governor about reopening theaters, gyms, and bowling alleys.

Nationally box office sales are down $6 billion with Hollywood postponing long-awaited blockbusters like Avatar 2 and Top Gun Maverick.


© 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Information from The Detroit Free Press and Mlive contributed to this report.

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