AMC Theatres Reverses Course, Will Require Face Masks Upon Reopening

closed AMC Theater- , May 12, 2020, in Burbank, California.-Getty - H 2020
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Regal Cinemas also said Friday that it would require guests to wear masks.

AMC Theatres said Friday that it is reversing course and will require customers to wear face masks when reopening its theaters next month.

On Thursday, AMC CEO Adam Aron unveiled the company's reopening plan for its U.S. theaters, which includes a slew of enhanced sanitary and social distancing measures developed in conjunction with numerous experts. AMC, the third-largest circuit in the country, said it would strongly encourage customers to wear masks, and require them to if so ordered by local authorities.

In an interview with Variety, Aron elaborated and said he didn't want to make masks a requirement and be drawn into a political controversy. (The Trump campaign has made headlines around the world for not requiring supporters to wear masks at a rally scheduled for Saturday in Tulsa). Aron's remark sparked an immediate furor on social media.

AMC plans on opening 450 or so of its U.S. theaters July 15, while all 600 should be open by July 24, in time for Disney's Mulan and Warner Bros.' Tenet.

In its Friday statement, AMC said it quickly realized that it hadn't gone far enough in its mask policy, based on the outcry from customers (patrons are still expected to be allowed to take off masks to eat or drink concessions).

Regal Cinemas also confirmed Friday that it would require guests to wear masks at its locations. "As related to our employees, guests will also be required to wear masks. Disposable masks will be made available as needed," the chain said in a statement.

Thursday's backlash to AMC was unwelcome news for cinema owners and Hollywood as they ramp up to once again release movies on the big screen. The plan has been to convince consumers that a theater is safe amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Below is AMC's Friday statement.

At AMC, we have been consulting with top scientists and health experts to create a broad, sweeping, far-reaching health and safety effort to make AMC Theatres safe for our guests and associates when our theatres reopen in July. Among many elements of that comprehensive plan was a requirement for our associates all to wear masks nationwide, as well as a requirement for our guests all to wear masks in the many parts of the country that will require it. In those areas of the country where masks will not be required, we nonetheless planned to strongly encourage mask usage by guests, and fully expected that the vast majority would do so. That policy on guest mask usage, which is directly comparable with our major competitors and many other highly regarded retailers, was announced yesterday afternoon.

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 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.

We will constantly monitor the scientific community’s latest thinking as to the efficacy of mask usage. We also will be looking at the varying health conditions in specific localities around our theaters all across the country. This will help us to determine what our mask policy will be as we go forward, as well as to make any other needed changes to this policy.

Guests coming to our theaters may bring their own masks of course, but for those who do not have one, masks will be available at our theater box offices at a nominal $1.00 price. Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay.

We also want to take this opportunity to express our great appreciation to our many guests who took the time to communicate their views. We will continue to listen and continue to monitor the changing nature of the coronavirus, adapting and adjusting our policies accordingly.

June 19, 12:26 p.m. Updated with Regal Cinemas' statement.