After facing customer backlash, AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., decided on Friday that health was more important than politics and announced that it would require all moviegoers to wear face masks in its theaters.
With that move, the company promptly reversed the stance it had taken only a day earlier when it said that it would not require guests to wear masks and only strongly encourage their use. The exceptions would be in regions where local or state authorities made mask-wearing a requirement, which AMC would abide by. Employees would be required to wear masks regardless of the region where they worked, per Variety.
Masks are considered an important resource to help control and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19 and has infected more than 2.2 million people in the U.S. Covid-19 mainly spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
The virus can also be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected.
Originally, AMC CEO Adam Aron told Variety that the company had made the decision because it did not want to impose masks on people who felt they were not necessary. Many people in the U.S., including the president, selfishly refuse to wear them. Some argue that requiring them infringes on their individual liberty.
“At AMC Theatres, we think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” the company said. “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.”
People who do not have a mask will be able to buy one at AMC box offices for $1.00. The company said that those unwilling to wear a mask would not be admitted in or allowed to stay.
In addition to requiring masks, AMC also announced a range of other measures—dubbed “AMC Safe & Clean”—that it will take when it reopens theaters. Measures include opening theaters at 30 percent capacity or less, blocking off every other row, leaving a seat between clients, adding extra time for cleaning between each showtime, installing disinfectant sprayers throughout the building, and offering a simplified menu, among others.
AMC also unveiled specific measures for its employees, including daily temperature screenings, requirements for individuals to self-quarantine until they are symptom-free for at least 72 hours, frequent hand washing, and obligatory face masks.
Following AMC’s about-face, rival Regal updated its reopening plan and also said it would require masks. At the time of publication, it appeared that Cinemark has not decided to make masks mandatory, except in regions where it is required, and only strongly recommends their use.
AMC expects to reopen 450 of its more than 600 movie theaters in the U.S. on July 15. It aims to have almost all of its theaters open for the release of Disney’s live-action Mulan on July 24 and Tenet on July 31.