Home / News / World /  AMC to require masks for guests following ‘intense’ outcry

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., facing outrage from customers over its mask policy, backpedaled and will require guests to wear face coverings when its theaters reopen next month.

“With the full support of our scientific advisers, we are reversing course," Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron said in a statement Friday. “As we reopen theaters, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies."

Within hours of AMC’s decision, Cineworld Group Plc’s Regal updated its policy to require that customers wear masks. For now, Cinemark Holdings Inc. and Marcus Theatres Corp. have said they’ll stick to local health guidelines but won’t remove customers who don’t cover their faces. A Cinemark spokeswoman declined to comment about AMC’s reversal, while a Marcus representative didn’t immediately respond to messages.

Aron said he received “intense and immediate outcry" from customers after the optional-mask policy was announced on Thursday. Guests can either bring their own masks or buy ones from the theater chain for $1, Aron said.

“Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay," he said.

The sudden shift is the latest in a series of nettlesome decisions for U.S. companies caught between public-health advice -- that masks help to stem the spread of the coronavirus -- and rhetoric from President Donald Trump and many of his supporters. The president has suggested that people who wear masks are doing so to express opposition to him.

Aron had defended the previous policy in an interview Thursday with the entertainment publication Variety. “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy," he said. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary."

David Hamer, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and a physician at Boston Medical Center, said Americans will have to get used to wearing masks in public areas with limited air circulation. “Anytime there is more than five to 10 minutes of close contact with other people, masks should be worn," he said.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a popular midsize theater chain, said it will require customers to wear masks when its cinemas reopen. The chain’s policy announcement on Friday seemed to be a direct response to Aron’s comments.

“When we open, the safety of our guests cannot be compromised. This is not political," Alamo Drafthouse said in a tweet. “We will require that guests wear masks at the theater (except when eating/drinking)."

The Austin, Texas-based chain said it will provide masks to customers who don’t have them.

Almost all large U.S. theater companies have said they’ll be open by the end of next month, in time for Walt Disney Co.’s “Mulan" premiere on July 24. They are all taking measures to boost cleaning, and will cap ticket sales to ensure moviegoers can sit farther apart.

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