AMC Reverses Course, Says Guests Must Wear Masks
When your company announce something that sparks a boycott to trend on Twitter, odds are it was not the best decision.
That’s exactly what happened yesterday when AMC announced that it would not require guests to wear masks in its theaters when they begin reopening on July 15. AMC CEO Adam Aron specifically linked the decision to the way masks have become so politicized in certain parts of the country, saying his company “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” Aron reiterated that sentiment to CNN; while he would personally wear a mask at the movies, Aron explained, AMC “didn't want to step into that controversy.” Masks would be encouraged, but not required, for customers.
The reaction to that decision — which was essentially the same one made previously by AMC’s big competitors, Cinemark and Regal — was swift and harsh. #BoycottAMC began trending on Twitter. Even some filmmakers like Phil Lord and Mike Flanagan publicly questioned AMC’s rules.
Less than 24 hours later, AMC is already reversing course, saying in a new statement that “it is clear from this response we did not go far enough on the usage of masks,” and announcing that they “now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theatres.” Those that don’t have a mask will be able to buy one at the box office for $1.
The new announcement doesn’t mention concessions, but as of yesterday, they were still part of the “Safe & Clean” plan, albeit with a “simplified menu”.
Under normal circumstances, snack sales make up a huge part of movie theaters’ revenues, which is why — even more than any “politics” — it’s important for theaters to allow people not to cover their faces at all times. Simply put, you can’t eat popcorn through a mask.
AMC’s new announcement doesn’t specifically address whether you can take off a mask to eat some Starburst, although its language (noting that people must wear masks “as they enter and enjoy”) does leave a little potential wiggle room. That could result in rules similar to the basic ones announced on Twitter today by the Alamo Drafthouse, who said that when they reopen they will “require that guests wear masks at the theater (except when eating/drinking)” — which, at the Alamo is a large portion of the time. If you guests can take off their masks at any point to eat something, I’m not really sure what kind of a “requirement” they actually are.
I feel for movie theaters struggling to find a way to reopen that is safe and financially sustainable. It can’t be easy. But I also know that personally, I’m not going to be going to any theater where masks are optional (or “required,” but not all the time if you want to chow some Sno-Caps) any time soon. If I was in charge of a theater, I’d look to see if there was a way to supplant concession income somehow - maybe even selling cool movie-inspired masks to wear inside the theater. The goal has to be to make it safer for everyone who wants to attend.
UPDATE: Regal Cinemas has now changed its website’s coronavirus policy to state that “[like employees], guests will also be required to wear masks. Disposable masks will be made available as needed.” Regal had previously announced masks would be recommended but not required for guests.
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