The coronavirus has done a real number on a number of American industries.

Airlines are hard hit, as any number of headlines confirm. The cruise industry is a shipwreck. Restaurants are closed for business -- and their stocks nearly so. Many of these industries have now turned to Congress for a helping hand -- and ideally, a cash handout -- to help them get through the crisis.

And now you can add movie theater chains to that list.

Letters spell CLOSED on a movie theater marquee

Image source: Getty Images.

Today, the National Association of Theater Owners, or NATO (not a typo), officially asked Congress for financial relief from the consequences of their closing their theaters in service of social distancing. Arguing that the theater industry and its 150,000 workers are "uniquely vulnerable" to the crisis, and are looking at a potential two- to three-month period in which they will collect no revenue at all from their shuttered theaters, NATO pointed out that saving its industry would cost only "a fraction" of the $50 billion the airlines are asking of Washington.  

And to be fair, movie theaters really are doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus -- voluntarily.

Authorities haven't actually come out and told them to close, but given federal guidelines recommending against folks getting together in enclosed spaces in groups of 10 or more, AMC Entertainment (AMC 0.23%), Cinemark (CNK -1.47%), and Regal Entertainment (owned by U.K. conglomerate Cineworld) all voluntarily closed up shop earlier this week.

Now, they're asking to be compensated for their self-sacrifice. Investors are betting that their pleas will be heard, too. By close of trading Thursday, AMC shares ended up 36.8%, and Cinemark was up 72.5%.