The Coppola and Henson companies obtain loans for the cellar and the puppet


LOS ANGELES — From a movie godfather to Kermit the Frog, the U.S. government’s small business loan program has sent money to unexpected corners of the entertainment industry.

While legendary names like Francis Ford Coppola and Jim Henson hardly conjure up the image of a ‘small’ business, executives of modestly sized companies that bear their names say funds have been essential to keep afloat ordinary workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Francis Ford Coppola Presents, the director’s broader brand of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ films, received a $5 million to $10 million loan to help keep 469 employees, according to data released Monday by the Department of Health. Treasury on the Payroll Protection Program.

The money was used to pay workers for 24 weeks at Coppola’s winery, including some 200 hospitality workers who occupy its restaurant, swimming pools, cinema gallery and pétanque court, which have spent months closed , although the vineyard continued to produce wine.

“I’m very committed to this program,” said winery CEO Corey Beck. “For us, our first and foremost goal was to make sure we could keep them on the payroll with benefits even though we were closed. Here is something that is available to us, potentially a 1% loan, let’s take advantage of it.

Beck said executives encourage employees to be creative during downtime.

“Like our bartenders, we tell them, ‘Create fun new drinks’, trying to help our company rethink the way we do things. »

Beck didn’t give a specific number, but said the loan was about halfway between the $5 million to $10 million range in the published data.

The company was one of dozens of California wineries approved for loans under the program, according to Treasury data, one of which was partly owned by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Jim Henson Co., founded by the late Muppets creator, director of “The Dark Crystal and “Labyrinth” and puppeteer of Kermit the Frog, also received funding from the program to stay afloat.

While its brand has been well-known for decades, the company said its shop is smaller and more artisanal than its big name.

The Jim Henson Co. employs about 75 people, company spokeswoman Nicole Goldman said in a statement. “Thanks to the PPP loan of approximately $2 million we received, we were able to keep 100% of our staff employed during this unprecedented time when we had to completely close key businesses, including live productions, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (in Los Angeles and New York), Henson Recording Studios and our soundstage,” she said.

The companies of other famous filmmakers also appeared in the Treasury data.

Director Ridley Scott’s production company RSA Films has been approved for a loan of between $2 million and $5 million for 42 jobs, while director Martin Scorsese’s production company Sikelia has been approved for between $150,000 and $350,000 dollars to help keep 11 people employed, the data shows. .

Several dozen small entities that underpin the film and television industries have received loans under the fund, including small businesses that provide editing and technical services, as well as non-profit organizations that work to advance art such as the Sundance Institute and the American Film Institute.

The Austin, Texas-based SXSW Film Festival, which has risen to prominence over the past few decades and was forced to move online after the pandemic prompted its cancellation, has been approved for between 2 and 5 million, saving him 294 jobs, the data showed.

While the plight of large cinema chains during the pandemic has been well documented, data has shown that smaller exhibitors are also suffering and have asked for help.

Three California-based chains, Regency Theatres, Galaxy Theaters and Laemmle Theatres, have each been approved for a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million.

Dozens of smaller theaters and film festivals across the country have also been approved for aid.

Movie stars have also asked for help with their side businesses.

Reese Witherspoon’s clothing brand Draper James, along with those of other celebrities such as Kanye West and Khloe Kardashian, has been approved for between $350,000 and $1 million under the fund, helping her keep 44 employees.

And Channing Tatum’s New Orleans restaurant, Saints and Sinners, was approved between $150,000 and $350,000 for its 27 employees.

Representatives of the companies and organizations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The PPP aims to help small businesses and their workers weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the PPP, Congress created $659 billion in low-interest loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money for payroll, rent and similar expenses.

With an estimated $130 billion unclaimed as the application deadline closed on June 30, Congress extended the program through August 8.

The public may never know the identities of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million recipients so far, as the administration has refused to release details of loans under $150,000. This secrecy sparked a lawsuit by news outlets, including the Associated Press.

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