AMC to Require Masks for Audiences, Reversing Earlier ‘Optional’ Stance

North America’s largest cinema chain AMC changed their stance on Friday, announcing that masks will indeed be mandated for all guests once their theaters reopen nationwide on July 15.

The company had originally announced Thursday that, while masks would indeed be mandated in states and localities where required by law in public places, they would merely “strongly encourage” the practice in states where masks were optional.

AMC’s CEO and President Adam Aron had claimed the move would avoid wading into a thorny political issue, even while noting that he would personally abide by mask-wearing guidelines himself.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron said in Thursday’s original press release. “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.”

A public backlash ensued, including an outpour of criticism on social media, culminating with a change in policy announced by the circuit the following day. 

“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,” Aron said in a subsequent press release Friday. “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.”

For any attendee who doesn’t bring a mask of their own, all AMC locations will be selling them for $1 each.

AMC’s first phase of reopening begins with a maximum 30% seating capacity on Wednesday, July 15, including blocking out every other row in auditoriums without recliner seats. The company projects they will reopen to full capacity around Thanksgiving.