Speed Reads

let's all go to the movies?

AMC CEO says reopened theaters won't require masks because 'we did not want to be drawn into a political controversy'

The largest movie theater chain in the U.S. won't require all guests to wear masks when they reopen, seeking to stay out of a "political controversy," according to the CEO.

AMC Theatres on Thursday officially unveiled its plan to begin reopening movie theaters on July 15, after closing due to the coronavirus pandemic. But although the company announced new cleaning procedures and said it will open theaters at reduced capacities, it won't require guests to wear masks except "in areas of the country where guests are required" to wear them already. Everywhere else, masks will be "strongly encouraged," the company said.

AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron spoke on that decision in an interview with Variety, saying, "We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy. We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary." He added that he believes the "vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks" and that "when I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example."

Health officials have repeatedly stressed the necessity of wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, and a recent study suggested coronavirus infections would significantly fall if 80 percent of people did so.

Aron's comments about wanting to avoid controversy, ironically, quickly sparked controversy on social media, although AMC isn't alone in its policy. The nation's second-largest theater chain, Regal Cinemas, also won't have a policy of requiring masks to be worn by all guests when they reopen, nor will the third largest, Cinemark Theatres.

This comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday announced the state will now require residents to wear masks in public spaces, a decision met with praise from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who tweeted, "Anyone making [wearing masks] a political issue is an absolute moron who can't read."