AMC Theaters is reversing their controversial mask policy, now saying that all customers will be required to wear masks except when eating or drinking.
The company, which operates more than 650 theaters in the United States and will begin reopening on July 15, announced their initial reopening plan on Thursday, which included enhanced sanitary procedures, social distancing measures and required masking for employees. However, the theater chain said that they would not require masks in areas where they are not mandated by local authorities.
The decision was met with backlash from potential moviegoers, especially when AMC chief Aram Aron said that the chain "did not want to be drawn into a political controversy" in an interview with Variety.
"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.”
In the new statement Friday, AMC said that they have been "consulting with top scientists and health experts," but acknowledged their first plan "did not go far enough."
"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," said a statement. "At AMC Theaters, 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 theaters, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theaters," the statement continued. "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."
The statement went on to say that guests are free to bring their own masks. For people who do not have their own masks or cloth face coverings, the chain will sell masks at their box offices for just $1 per mask.
AMC isn't the only movie chain planning to make audiences cover their faces when theaters re-open. Alamo Drafthouse declared on Twitter that they would be mandating masks for all visitors.
At Regal Cinemas, which operates over 550 theaters in the United States, all employees will be required to wear masks and other social distancing practices will be taken. Early guidelines did not mention customers wearing masks at all, but on Friday afternoon, after AMC announced the new policy, Regal Cinemas updated the guidelines to say that customers would be required to wear masks. The chain will begin opening their theaters on July 10 where allowed.
Cinemark, the nation's third-largest theater chain following AMC and Regal, told Variety that guests will be strongly encouraged but not required to wear face masks unless local ordinances mandate masking. Employees will be masked and increased precautions will be taken. Theaters will open as local requirements allow.