AMC Theatres reversed its controversial face mask policy Friday afternoon, following mass outrage and backlash over social media. All customers will now be required to wear masks when theaters reopen.
The theater chain's CEO, Adam Aron, had previously said that the company’s plan to reopen locations would not require patrons to wear masks as they “did not want to be drawn into political controversy.”
The insinuation that the CDC’s recommendation that all people wear masks in public spaces in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus was a political issue infuriated many of AMC’s customers.
“Not wanting to kill other people is not political. OR controversial,” actress Aisha Tyler tweeted in response to the news. “If I get sick at your theater do you cover funeral costs? I don’t see anything on the website about it,” tweeted entertainment writer Mike Ryan.
In its statement Friday announcing its reversal, the company said, “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.”
“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,” it added. “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 plans to begin its reopening July 15, amid dramatic surges in confirmed coronavirus cases in several states, including Florida and Arizona, as they’ve phased out of their shutdown. This is to ensure doors are open when summer tentpoles Mulan and Tenet, the new film from Christopher Nolan, premiere on July 24 and July 31, respectively.
Calling the safety precaution “political controversy” ignited a firestorm of furious social media posts blasting the chain for the decision.
“You’ve lost a customer for life,” wrote another Twitter user. “I miss movies like hell. No WAY I'm going into a plague box to see one. No WAY I'm going into a plague box to see one. You're not even trying, @AMCTheatres,” wrote yet another.
After Variety’s initial interview with Aron was published, AMC and Adam Aron were both trending on Twitter, largely with customers irate over the insinuation that mask safety is a political issue.
“We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary,” he elaborated. “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.”
Other safety measures the company will be enacting include reducing seating capacity to 30 percent facilitate social distancing, instituting new cleaning procedures and regimens, encouraging cashless transactions, and providing hand sanitizer. Employees will undergo temperature checks when reporting for work, but customers will not.