In the wake of making controversial statements yesterday about AMC not mandating face masks in those parts of the country that aren’t requiring it during the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Adam Aron, having heard the social media backlash, on Friday changed the chain’s policy and is now requiring patrons to wear masks whether local ordinances require it or not.
Given what went on with AMC overnight, I understand other theater chains will follow suit and require all moviegoers to wear masks. Before AMC reversed its policy, Alamo Drafthouse released a statement on social media that its theaters will require all patrons to wear masks.
“With the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy,” AMC’s Aron said today. “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.”
“We also will be looking at the varying health conditions in specific localities around our theatres all across the country,” he continued. “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.”
However, if you need a mask at AMC, the circuit will still charge you a $1. “Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay,” Aron said.
When it came to patrons wearing face masks, AMC had a policy similar to fellow chains Cinemark and Regal: Moviegoers would be required to wear them in those areas which mandated it, and in those areas that did not, they’d be “encouraged” to wear them. Aron went two steps off the cliff Thursdaya when he told Variety, “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” when it came to requiring all moviegoers nationwide to wear masks, “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.”
Alamo Drafthouse, seeing the social media outcry for face masks in movie theaters, issued a statement today moments before AMC’s: “When we open, the safety of our teammates and guests cannot be compromised. This is not political. We will require that guests wear masks at the theater (except when eating and drinking). Those without masks will be given one.”
With movie theaters on their financial knees in what will be four months of closures come mid-July, the last thing an exhibitor needs is a breakout of COVID-19 in its theaters as they try to reopen and have some sort of semblance of a summer season, with Mulan on July 25 and Tenet on July 31– even with social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures in place. While some local ordinances have eased the wearing of masks, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts believes it’s vital, especially since COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and cases are spiking in states that have reopened. In fact, today, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orange County in Florida mandated again that face masks be required in public given the surge in cases.
NATO had no statement when asked about large circuits enforcing a nationwide mask policy for guests; the organization is not in the business of dictating policy, rather making suggestions.
Aron’s full statement is below:
“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 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.”
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 theatres 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 theatres may bring their own masks of course, but for those who do not have one, masks will be available at our theatre 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.”