Masks will be optional when the largest movie theater chain reopens in the US July 15

Brian Heater
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: The AMC Theater in Times Square is closed due to the spread of the coronavirus on March 26, 2020 in New York City. Across the country schools, businesses and places of work have either been shut down or are restricting hours of operation as health officials try to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Update: AMC has reversed its decision on its mask policy. Per a statement,

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 theaters, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theaters. 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.

Less than a month out, AMC has finally put a firm date on its plans to reopen theaters across the U.S. The chain will resume service for 450 of its 600+ locations on July 15, lining up with its earlier promises of mid-July. Movie goers are no doubt a bit hesitate to return to theaters for reasons Anthony and I have already outlined, and new comments from CEO Adam Aron aren’t exactly bolstering confidence.

In an interview with Variety, the chief exec noted that theaters would not require guests to wear masks. He justified the decision — or, perhaps, indecision — with the odd claim that mask requirements were inherently political.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” he told the outlet. “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.”

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AMC joins fellow chains Cinemark and Regal in the decision, though all will have to require moviegoers to wear them in states like California where masks are mandatory in most indoor areas. How strictly such requirements will be enforced in theaters remains to be seen, though AMC says it’s requiring all employees to do so and will sell masks to attendees for $1 a piece.

Employees will also undergo temperature checks, but guests will not. Such screenings are largely seen as an important safeguard in the spread of COVID-19, though they’re ineffective for asymptomatic carriers. Other safeguards include electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and other technologies deployed to stop the virus’s spread.

As for what will be playing, many studios have already bumped major releases back to 2021. Though a handful of titles, including Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s Mulan are due out in the coming months.