AMC announced yesterday that it will reopen most of its US theaters on July 15, with seating capped at 30% capacity. But the company has gotten some backlash after saying that while its employees must wear face masks, it will encourage customers to wear them but not require them in parts of the country where they are not compulsory. The statement said AMC was trying to stay out of the “political controversy.”
That, in and of itself, is a political statement — by not choosing sides, AMC has chosen a side — and one that the company could have easily avoided. Since AMC, like any movie theater chain, makes most of its revenue from the concession stand, not the movie rentals, it should have said, “If we want to stay in business, we still have to sell you a lot of over-priced popcorn, candy, and soda — all of which are difficult to consume with a mask over your mouth!”
It should be noted that Cinemark and Regal, two rival movie theater companies, have the exact same face mask policy. But I have several questions for all of those exhibitors:
- Even in the places where the masks are required, who’s going to check whether people keep them on once the lights go down?
- What movies are those theaters going to show, considering that most distributors have pushed back their release dates to later in the year?
- While Warner Brothers will bring out Christopher Nolan’s new movie, “Tenet,” at the end of July, how many screens can it possibly fill?
- Although I suppose that if there’s enough demand, they could show “Tenet” on every screen (at reduced capacity), but then what?
- Will theaters start showing older titles?
- How is that a draw if those movies are also available to watch at home?
None of this will affect me, as I have no plans to sit in any room with humans other than my wife for an extended period anytime in the near future. Yes, that will mean missing out on seeing movies on huge screens, but I’m more than happy to trade that benefit in exchange for staying alive.
Update at 2:19pm CT… After lots of negative comments, AMC changed its tune in a press release this afternoon:
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.
Good for them, but I still don’t know how they’ll enforce it once customers are in their seats, even if they’re not eating and drinking. Just think about how little theater owners do about cell phone use during the movie. But somewhere in America, movie trailer companies are already working on funny PSAs to run in the “pre-show countdown” advising customers to keep their masks on.