Yesterday, AMC Theaters tried to ride the middle and ended up careening into a ditch when it announced that masks would be optional when the theater chain reopens for business in Mid-July. The reason, according to CEO Adam Aron, was that AMC “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” But it found itself in one anyway, as outcry over the framing of a public health issue as “political” quickly gained traction on social media, with tweets from prominent filmmakers and #BoycottAMC trending on Twitter.
To be fair, this divisive rhetoric didn’t originate with AMC. But the company didn’t have to play into it, either, especially considering that the combination of closed quarters and large crowds make movie-going one of the riskier activities out there in terms of contracting COVID-19. And so now AMC is walking back that statement, saying in a new statement that it has “reversed course” and will require mask usage in its theaters.
“At AMC Theaters, we think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests. With the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy,” it reads. “We now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theaters.” Given that concessions will be available at said theaters, however, there’s still an element of risk in the guy chomping on popcorn in the next row. (This is similar to the Alamo Drafthouse’s new mask policy, which also contains an exception for eating and drinking.)
Along with the mask requirement, AMC is also reducing ticket sales for each screening to “30% or less” of auditorium capacity, requiring regular disinfection of hard surfaces and daily health screenings for staff, and reducing its menu to popcorn, candy, and soda (no refills).
Come hell or high water, AMC theaters will reopen on July 15.