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AMC Theatres reverses course, will require customers to wear masks

Published Jun 19th, 2020 3:18PM EDT
AMC Theatres reopening
Image: ORLIN WAGNER/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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  • AMC will reopen hundreds of theaters in the US on July 15th with strict capacity and cleaning procedures in place, and customers will be required to wear masks.
  • AMC CEO and President Adam Aron initially said he didn’t want the company to be “drawn into a political controversy” by forcing people to wear face masks.
  • AMC Theatres expects to be fully operational again by Thanksgiving.

Novel coronavirus infections are still rising throughout the United States, but this week, AMC Theatres announced that it is planning to start resuming operations next month. The theater chain expects to reopen about 450 of its more than 600 venues on July 15th, and says almost all of its theaters should be back up and running by the time Christopher Nolan’s Tenet hits the big screen on July 31st. AMC will also be implementing some precautions.

As it reopens, AMC will go through four phases when it comes to seating capacity, although it will always fall back on federal, state, and local laws. In Phase 1, which begins July 15th, AMC will make 30% or less of the seating capacity available for each showtime. Every other row will be blocked off. Seating capacity will expand through Phase 2 and Phase 3, and by Thanksgiving, AMC expects to operate at full capacity in Phase 4.

AMC will also be enacting enhanced cleaning procedures throughout its facilities: Disinfecting hard surfaces between every showtime, disinfecting seats overnight, and providing sanitation stations with wipes and sanitizer for all guests. Food and beverage menu selection has also been reduced and transactions will be contactless.

But that’s not the reason that AMC Theatres has been making headlines this week. Initially, the chain wasn’t going to have any rules about wearing masks in its theaters because it didn’t want to upset anyone.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” said Adam Aron, CEO & President of AMC, in an interview with Variety on Thursday. “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.”

This drew swift backlash from the general public, and on Friday, the company released the following statement:

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. 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 theatres, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theatres. 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.

AMC will also sell masks at the box office for $1, and anyone who refuses to wear one will be turned away.

Just days ago, we covered a study showing that US states which mandated the usage of masks had averted between 230,000 and 450,000 COVID-19 cases from April 1st to May 21st. Meanwhile, states that haven’t made mask usage a priority, such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona, have all set new coronavirus infection records this week. Wearing masks makes a difference, and allowing people to sit around in a closed room together for two hours without masks would have been an incredibly foolish plan, especially if part of that plan is to reopen in less than a month.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.