On Thursday, AMC Theatres unveiled its plan for a gradual reopening of its movie theaters across the United States. The plan was to have about 450 theaters open on July 15th, with most of the remaining 150 theaters open by July 24th. The reopening plan included a lengthy protocol and cleaning regimen, including a theater capacity limited to 30%, a limited food and drink menu, ticketless entry and a requirement that all employees wash their hands every 20 minutes.
The new plan also required all employees wear a protective mask, but left it up to the customer's discretion, although the chain highly recommended that one be worn. That decision met with a lot of pushback from customers, especially following comments from AMC Theatres CEO and President Adam Anon, who explained that the decision to not require masks was made in part because the company didn't want to stuck in a political discussion over the masks. The company did say customers would be required to wear a mask in areas where local or state officials had mandated their use:
"We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy," said Aron. "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."
Late Thursday evening, I wrote a piece entitled "The Cowardice Of AMC Theatres," in which I argued that the decision not to require customers to wear a mask was both scientifically wrong but also ultimately a bad business decision:
You can draw a straight line from the ginned up protests in Florida during the controversial voting recounts of the 2000 presidential election to the secretly funded and faux grassroots origins of the Tea Party to today's loud refusals to wear a mask in public and enclosed spaces. There is a small subset of the American public who have become convinced that they are all Mel Gibson in "Braveheart," throwing away their masks as they loudly scream "Freedom!" Thanks to conservative pundits who often see the mask question more of political wedge issue than a scientific question, some people see agreeing to wear a mask as a win by the Left or some hard-to-follow infringement on their constitutional rights.
Aside from the fact that there is now plenty of scientific data to show wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to slow down the spread of COVID-19, the constitutional argument is just impressively misguided. It's the legal equivalent to a part of society suddenly deciding that wearing pants is a political construct imposed by the Deep State and George Soros. No Conservative would seriously make the argument that the Revolutionary War was fought so Americans could let it all swing free in public. But yet here we are, arguing over a far less crazy idea that most Americans seem to support.
By late Friday morning, AMC had reversed the decision and released a statement announcing the company had changed its policy towards wearing a mask in its theaters. It will now require all customers to wear a mask, regardless of local or state guidance.
Here is the statement, in full:
At AMC, we have been consulting with top scientists and health experts to create a broad, sweeping, far-reaching health and safety effort to make AMC Theatres safe for our guests and associates when our theatres reopen in July. Among many elements of that comprehensive plan was a requirement for our associates all to wear masks nationwide, as well as a requirement for our guests all to wear masks in the many parts of the country that will require it. In those areas of the country where masks will not be required, we nonetheless planned to strongly encourage mask usage by guests, and fully expected that the vast majority would do so. That policy on guest mask usage, which is directly comparable with our major competitors and many other highly regarded retailers, was announced yesterday afternoon.
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. At AMC Theatres, 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 theatres, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theatres. 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.
We will constantly monitor the scientific community’s latest thinking as to the efficacy of mask usage. We also will be looking at the varying health conditions in specific localities around our theatres all across the country. This will help us to determine what our mask policy will be as we go forward, as well as to make any other needed changes to this policy.
Guests coming to our theatres may bring their own masks of course, but for those who do not have one, masks will be available at our theatre box offices at a nominal $1.00 price. Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay.
We also want to take this opportunity to express our great appreciation to our many guests who took the time to communicate their views. We will continue to listen and continue to monitor the changing nature of the coronavirus, adapting and adjusting our policies accordingly.