TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Lawmakers discussed a bill on Thursday that would let movie theaters keep state sales taxes collected for tickets and concessions. Local sales tax would still need to be collected.

This would apply to the next two years, beginning in July. Estimates said it could cost the state nearly $7 million a year.

Revenue fell sharply for movie theaters last year because of social distancing efforts during the pandemic, but there is hope that theaters can start getting more visitors this year.

“It would help during that recovery period, we expect that we won’t really reach what our capacity was prior to the pandemic until roughly 2023-2024,” said Todd Halstead, executive director at Theater Owners of Mid-America.

People in the industry said things are improving, but they could use help.

“It’s been a really, really devastatingly hard year. We are still operating at an 80 percent loss over 2019,” said Bobbie Bagby Ford, executive vice president for B&B Theatres. “This bill will allow us the time to ramp back up.”

Supporters of the bill said giving theaters a helping hand to get back on track is both good for people and the economy.

“They are economic multipliers in their communities. They drive foot traffic to local businesses. They are cultural and community hubs,” Halstead said. “It’s just so important that a lot of these small towns across the state, where jobs and out-of-home entertainment can be so far in between, that we keep the movie theater industry alive in the state of Kansas.”

The bill would need to be voted out of the Senate tax committee to make it to the floor for a full vote.