The Neon kicks off new fundraising campaign

“Customers aren’t back in cinemas like they were pre-pandemic,” says Jonathan McNeal, The Neon manager.

The Neon, a signature destination for independent cinema in downtown Dayton, has kicked off its “Big Screen Annual Fund” in order to close financial gaps that have occurred since the coronavirus pandemic.

The Neon was among the Dayton-area entities particularly awarded more than $100,000 from the Small Business Administration Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. Organizers say the $213,417 received from the grant was used in 2020 and 2021.

“We received both PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) and SVOG,” said Jonathan McNeal, The Neon manager. “PPP was to help with payroll during the early months of the pandemic and the Shuttered Venue grant helped with costs during closure, limited capacity, etc. That said, that money was all used in 2020 (and) 2021. Now, we’re relying on traditional operations to get us through, but customers aren’t back in cinemas like they were pre-pandemic. Habits have changed and some people just aren’t comfortable coming back yet. Every day, we hear people say it’s their first time back in two (or more) years, which is both encouraging and a reminder that not everybody has been back to the movies.”

Credit: Sean Korey

Credit: Sean Korey

In addition to more than 75 traditional, daily engagements in 2022 (that’s more than one new film a week in a cinema with just two screens), The Neon has hosted more than 60 special events over the past 12 months. Partners throughout the year have included Dayton Metro Library, ThinkTV PBS, Junior Leaguers of Dayton, Families of Addicts, Five Rivers Health Center, Scripted in Black, Diabetes Dayton, Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, and many more.

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The Neon also hosted three film festivals that collectively screened over 40 films and several screenings included Q&A’s and visiting artists. Over 400 children and their families attended free screenings of PBS Kids programming over the summer. Further, 130 students from Dayton Early College Academy, Stivers School for the Arts and Wright State University attended the free Ohio premiere of “Till” along with the post-screening Q&A live from Lincoln Center, which was made possible through a partnership with the New York Film Festival.

Credit: Photo: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Photo: Amelia Robinson

The campaign celebrates the power of the cinematic arts being presented as artists intend. In addition to accepting in-person or online donations at any level, The Neon will host a “Pay-What-You-Can” screening of the new documentary “Only In Theaters” on Thursday, December 15 at 7:30 p.m. This new documentary tells the story of the Laemmle arthouse cinema chain in Los Angeles, a company that has endured the advent of television, the onslaught of streaming services and, most recently, the pandemic. Reservations for attending this screening can be made by emailing

“To put things in perspective, 2019 was not a banner year but it was solid and we ended the year in the black,” added McNeal. “We’re at about 60 percent of 2019′s numbers.”

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The Neon is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization, and donations are tax deductible.

For more details about this current campaign, visit The Neon website at and click the “donate” button on the top of the page.

The Neon is located at 130 E. Fifth St., Dayton.

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