SBA Grant Gets This Movie Theatre Business Through COVID-19 Pandemic

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Apex Entertainment, LLC operates two multiplex movie theatres: the landmark Village 8 Theatres, which offers first-run discounted movies and hosts special events; and Baxter Avenue Theatres, which has exclusive first-run, foreign and independent movies. Apex is Louisville’s only independent theatre chain. Both Village 8 and Baxter Avenue have a loyal following. Customers love Village 8’s discounted movie ticket programs like “$2 Tuesday” and Baxter’s Midnight Movie showings of cult classics.

They have a business model different from the big movie chains. The theatres are in middle-class neighborhoods where patrons can walk to see a movie. They have a dedicated staff, loyal clientele and a work-friendly environment. Mr. Leslie (Les) Aberson, President and CEO of Apex Entertainment, is proud that the company offers employment to people with disabilities, along with employees who enjoy working with their local community, hosting film festivals, exclusive premieres, and screenings for local filmmakers. 

When COVID-19 struck, perhaps no industry felt the brunt of the pandemic more quickly – and severely – than those operating music, museum and theatre venues. In March 2020, Kentucky’s Governor ordered theatres to close. The Village 8 Theatres were shuttered for 15 months. Baxter Avenue Theatres operated on a very limited capacity.

In December 2020, Congress passed a law that created programs to assist businesses in surviving and recovering from the pandemic. Part of that law was the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG).In March 2021, tweaks to the program made the SVOG more inclusive.  

As the new law was being crafted, Les Aberson communicated with the National Association of Theatre Owners about the need for assistance to help entertainment venues across the country survive. Aberson and his staff prepared for months to apply for the SVOG, ensuring that their application was ready to submit - with all pertinent financial information.

When the SVOG became available and active, Apex was among the first to apply - and the first in Kentucky to receive the award.  

With the SVOG, Apex paid operational expenses, including back-pay, deferred rent and replacement of HVAC units. They also used funds to repair projectors and other theatre equipment. Apex is serving the community again. With its work friendly environment, the company offers employment to those with disabilities.  

Employees enjoy working with the  community, hosting film festivals, exclusive premieres, and screenings for local filmmakers. Les stated, “The SVOG Award from the SBA has enabled Apex to survive after a very challenging 15 months.”

Because COVID forced studios to make almost all movies available via on-demand streaming, Apex converted Village 8 Theatres into a “first-run” movie house, and the  community responded positively. Movie patrons can now see new movies at lower ticket prices. Village 8 customers are also able to support a local company.

Les added, “The grant has provided the much-needed financial stability to keep our company in business. We thank the SBA, our investors, landlord and bank. All have all been helpful and supportive during such a difficult time.”  

Apex continues to focus on giving back. During the lockdown, management recognized the needs of the community. They collected over $7,000 in non-perishable goods for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.