AMC Theatres will require customers to wear face masks after all.
The world's largest cinema chain sparked an outcry on social media Thursday when the Leawood, Kan., company said it would "strongly encourage" guests to wear masks at its theaters when they reopen in July. But the company said it would only mandate masks in areas where they were mandated by local officials.
The announcement, part of a broader phased reopening plan to get AMC back in business after four months of closures, was met with a swift backlash. Numerous users on Twitter criticized comments by CEO Adam Aron, who explained the mask policy by saying that he "wanted to keep the political controversy outside AMC," though he himself would be wearing a face covering.
On Friday, the company reversed course.
"We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests," Aron said in a statement. "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."
The move also comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings, including when shopping, taking public transit or seeking medical care. Newsom's order came amid concerns that people were not taking the risk of the virus seriously as the state took steps to reopen its economy.
Texas-based theater chain Alamo Drafthouse tweeted Friday that it would require all patrons and employees to wear masks, except when eating or drinking.
All of AMC's 630 U.S. theaters have been shuttered since mid-March, doing severe damage to its business. The company is hoping to open most of its locations July 15, in time for Warner Bros.' re-release of Christopher Nolan's "Inception." The company aims for almost all of its cinemas to reopen in time for Walt Disney Co.'s "Mulan" on July 24 and Nolan's "Tenet" on July 31.
AMC will limit auditorium capacity to 30% at first, with the aim of gradually lifting restrictions in order to be back to normal by Thanksgiving. AMC also has laid out a long list of sanitation protocols, including upgraded ventilation equipment.