AMC Theaters will require its customers to wear face masks after catching backlash for its initial reopening plan, which did not include making masks mandatory out of fear of "political controversy."
The popular theater chain debuted its “AMC Safe & Clean” policy on Friday, designed to allow for a safe reopening for its customers after shutting down theaters in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the initial plan did not make the use of masks mandatory despite numerous health experts saying they're an essential step to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
However, after some intense public outcry, AMC reversed its decision later in the day.
“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 mask,” the company said in a statement provided to Variety. “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.”
As states across the nation begin early stages of reopening their local economies, the theater giant worked with Harvard School of Public Health faculty member Dr. Joseph Allen to come up with a robust system to reopen that includes reduced theater capacities, enhanced cleaning procedures and a reduced menu, all meant to help with social distancing to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Controversy over the reopening plan began when AMC CEO and president Adam Aron described the decision to not require its customers to wear face masks as a political one.
“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron told the Variety in a separate interview. “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.”
Many were quick to deride the executive’s comments for turning advice from public health officials into a political game. The hashtags #BoycottAMC and #AMCisCanceled trended on Twitter Friday in the wake of the reopening plan’s announcement.
Prior to reversing its decision to require masks for customers, AMC noted that its employees would have to wear masks and have their temperatures checked regularly. In addition, it would sell masks to customers who didn’t bring one with them but wanted to wear one anyway.
The outlet reports the theater giant will reopen 450 of its more than 600 venues on July 15, betting on the release of Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake and the Christopher Nolan-directed thriller “Tenet” as the first major box office draws for returning audiences.