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AMC Theatres Reverses Course On Mask Wearing After CEO’s Remarks Spark Social Media Outrage

Dan Margolies
KCUR 89.3

AMC Theatres has reversed course after its CEO’s comment that it would not require its customers to wear masks sparked a huge social-media backlash.

The Leawood-based company, the largest movie theater chain in the world, now says it will require customers to wear masks when it begins a phased reopening of its theaters on July 15.

AMC CEO Adam Aron told Variety magazine on Thursday that moviegoers would be encouraged but not be required to wear masks.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron told the magazine. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary.”

The social-media backlash was immediate, with posters on Twitter asking how public health was “political” and others saying they would not patronize theaters operated by AMC.

In a release on Friday, AMC acknowledged the controversy Aron’s remarks had ignited, saying they “prompted an intense 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,” the statement said. “Accordingly, and with the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy."

"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,” it added.

Customers can bring their own masks when AMC theaters reopen, or they can purchase them for $1 apiece at AMC box offices.

“Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay,” the company said.

AMC plans a phased reopening of its more than 600 U.S. theater complexes after shutting them down for nearly four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, the company said it was consulting with the Harvard University School of Public Health on “how best to create a safe environment for our guests and associates.”

“Personal protection equipment, cleaning protocols, limited theatre capacity, blocked seating, and other strategies are all being planned,” AMC said.

AMC reported a huge $2.2 billion loss in the first quarter ending March 31 after posting almost no revenue in the final weeks of the quarter because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

“In my heart of hearts, I think we can manage AMC through this crisis,” Aron told Variety. “There are no guarantees and nobody knows what coronavirus will look like in the winter or how long it will take to get a vaccine, but I can tell you that we have a very able management team here. We’re going to make every effort to make sure that AMC continues to be well positioned as a leader of the movie theater industry.”

Copyright 2020 KCUR 89.3

Dan Margolies is editor in charge of health news at KCUR, the public radio station in Kansas City. Dan joined KCUR in April 2014. In a long and varied journalism career, he has worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star and Reuters. In a previous life, he was a lawyer. He has also worked as a media insurance underwriter and project development director for a video production firm.