AMC, Regal and Cinemark, the three largest movie theater chains in the U.S., will be opening their doors again in July. Most movie theaters have been shut down since mid-March in the interest of public health, which has served as a huge blow to the exhibition side of the business. Though many lovers of the theatrical experience are eager to return to theaters, all three chains have been met with major backlash online after it was revealed that they won't be requiring guests to wear face masks.
Regal and Cinemark previously announced their respective reopening plans. In both cases, employees will be required to wear masks, but not customers. AMC, the largest chain in the country, recently revealed its plans, which were remarkably similar. The exception being in states that require face masks in public. AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said the lack of a mask requirement had to do with wanting to avoid "political controversy," while adding that they thought requiring guests to wear masks would be "counterproductive."
The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have both strongly recommended that people wear masks in public. Multiple studies have shown that they are one of the most effective ways to reduce risk around other people. Despite that, the issue has become politicized. The policies from all three chains were criticized heavily on social media. Symone D. Sanders, a senior advisor for presidential candidate Joe Biden, had this to say.
"Canceling my AMC membership because there isn't anything political about wearing a mask. It's just a good public health practice that will help save lives!"
All three chains will be taking up extra sanitation measures and limiting auditorium capacity, among other precautions. They will also be encouraging that guests wear masks, with Adam Aron saying he thinks the "vast majority" of guests will wear them. But the lack of a mandate has drawn ire from moviegoers. Critic Brendan Hodges had this to say.
"AMC joins Cinemark & Regal by not mandating masks for guests. They say it's a 'political issue.' They are baffoons and cowards at the expense of public health. I understand they need concession revenue, but there's no excuse they can't be mandatory entering/exiting. F*** them."
Regal will be the first to reopen its doors on July 10. AMC is set to open on July 15, with Cinemark set to follow on July 17. The first blockbuster on deck to release is Mulan on July 24, with Tenet arriving a week later on July 31. It remains to be seen how many people will be willing to return to theaters, but based on the social media response, these policies will be discouraging quite a few potential moviegoers. The news of AMC's reopening was first reported by Variety.