The largest movie theatre chain in the U.S. changed its position on mask-wearing less than a day after the company became a target on social media for saying it would defer to local governments on the issue.
AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said Friday that its theatres will require patrons to wear masks upon reopening, which will begin in mid-July.
“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”
Rival chain Regal followed AMC’s lead. Spokesman Richard Grover said Friday that moviegoers must wear masks in all its theatres as well.
However, in Canada, Cineplex Inc. said Friday it is sticking with COVID-19 safety policies that leave it up to moviegoers to decide if they wear a face mask inside their theatres. Canada’s largest movie chain said it intended to stick with guidance from Canadian health authorities on masks.
AMC wasn’t the first to say it would defer to officials on the mask issue. That policy was identical to what Cinemark announced earlier this month. Cinemark did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Most major retailers require masks for customers only where local rules mandate it.
But the AMC plan hit a nerve for many on Thursday and #boycottAMC quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.
The outrage was further flamed by one of Aron’s comments in an interview with the Hollywood trade Variety that implied that taking a hard stance on mask-wearing was a political matter.
“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron said. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary.”
Saying wearing masks is a political issue is like politicizing covering your mouth when you sneeze <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BoycottAMC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#BoycottAMC</a>
Dear <a href=”https://twitter.com/AMCTheatres?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AMCTheatres</a> ,<br><br>I am a person with 10+ pre-existing conditions.<br><br>I’m also a huge movie lover.<br><br>I hope you know that it’s nothing political when I say that I will <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BoycottAMC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#BoycottAMC</a> <br><br>It’s a matter of life or death for me & you’ve lost a customer for life. <a href=”https://t.co/Irpf82QewJ”>https://t.co/Irpf82QewJ</a>
He also said that he thought the “vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks” and that he planned to lead by example and would be wearing a mask himself.
The interview came on the same day that California started requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible.
Earlier Friday, Alamo Drafthouse, which operates around 40 locations in the U.S. said that it would be requiring that guests wear masks at its theatres, with a caveat for eating and drinking. Those without masks, it said, would be given one. AMC plans to sell masks for $1.
Most indoor U.S. theatres have been closed since mid-March because of COVID-19.
AMC plans to open 450 of its U.S. locations on July 15, with the goal of having most of its theatres in operation by July 24 for the opening of Disney’s Mulan and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet the following week.
Though it previously had some Canada locations, AMC’s operations in the country have since closed or were sold to other exhibitors, including Cineplex Entertainment.