AMC Theatres has reversed course and will require all of its guests to wear masks when it reopens next month. The about-face comes after AMC chief Adam Aron spurred a deluge of criticism and controversy when he told Variety that mask-wearing would be encouraged but not mandated in states where it was not a requirement.
“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron told Variety. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary. We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”
Aron’s comments came as AMC was unveiling new safety procedures that it argues will help keep its theaters free of COVID-19. The exhibitor has been shuttered since March when coronavirus first hit the U.S. On Friday, AMC announced that even though its competitors, such as Regal and Cinemark, had similar policies regarding face masks, it had made an error.
“This announcement prompted an intense and immediate outcry from our customers, and it is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks,” the company said. “At AMC Theatres, we think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests. Accordingly, and with the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy. As we reopen theaters, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theaters. The speed with which AMC moved to revise our mask policies is a reflection of our commitment to the safety and health of our guests.”
Even before the policy change was announced, AMC required its employees to wear masks and have their temperatures checked. Aron’s comments about not wanting to wade into a political controversy had the opposite effect — they were roundly criticized on social media, with some people on Twitter and Facebook calling for a boycott of AMC.
AMC says that 450 of its more than 600 venues will resume operations on July 15. The theater chain expects to be almost fully operational by the time that Disney’s “Mulan” debuts on July 24 and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” bows on July 31.