Alamo Drafthouse will be requiring all its moviegoers, coast to coast, to wear masks to its theaters. “When we open, the safety of our teammates and guests cannot be compromised. This is not political,” the chain said in a statement Friday on Twitter.
“We will require that guests wear masks at the theater (except when eating and drinking). Those without masks will be given one,” the statement continued.
The move comes in the wake of AMC boss Adam Aron’s comments yesterday that the chain would not mandate the wearing of masks in areas where the laws aren’t enforcing or insisting upon them because “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron told Variety. “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.”
More criticism against Aron stems from AMC charging patrons $1 for masks for those wanting them, versus giving them away for free. Alamo was keen to show it has the opposite policy, explicitly stating today that “Those without masks will be given one.”
AMC’s policy on patrons’ wearing masks is on par with Cinemark’s and Regal’s reopening safety policies: in areas of the country that are mandating face-wearing, the chain will enforce it, but in areas where it’s not insisted upon, the chain will encourage it. Aron got himself in hot water by expounding on this, creating a social media backlash. (UPDATE: AMC has reversed its policy Friday and now will require face masks in all instances.)
AMC had no comment when reached about Aron’s remarks yesterday, nor did NATO as the theater owners’ org isn’t involved in dictating safety policies to theaters. NATO issued to theaters a handbook at the end of April entitled “Cinema Reopening Considerations” that suggested many of the protocols theaters are putting in place with social distancing and extended cleaning between showtimes, etc. However, when it came to recommending moviegoers’ wear masks, there was no such mention. When it comes to masks, the document reads “Limit contact between theater staff and guests. Where face coverings are not mandated, consider requiring theater staff to wear face coverings (as recommended by the CDC) if they have contact with guests.”
Aron’s statements Thursday were perceived as kowtowing to Red State sentiment when it comes to the wearing of masks, despite White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci believing that wearing one is a valuable safeguard and shows respect for others.
“I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing,” Fauci told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “Newsroom.”
The big three circuits issued their reopening plans and COVID-19 safety guidelines this week. Cinemark opens today in a four-phase approach leading into Mulan on July 24 and Tenet on July 31. AMC will begin reopening on July 15 with 450 locations with another 150 between July 24 and 31. Regal will throw its doors back open between July 10 through July 24.
As of today, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida, Orlando and Tampa are requiring residents to wear face masks in public with a mandatory order in place in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orange County according to New4Jax.com.