AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, the three largest movie theater chains in the United States, announced today that guests will no longer be required to wear masks at their locations, provided that those guests have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Masks will now be optional for vaccinated guests, and “strongly encouraged” for everyone else.
According to Variety, people will no longer have to wear masks at theaters run by AMC, Regal, and Cinemark as long as they’ve been vaccinated. Some chains will continue to rely on social distancing and reduced capacity techniques and enhanced sanitization protocols, but Regal will no longer require vaccinated guests to observe any social distancing.
“Consistent with the latest CDC guidance and following consultation with public health experts, AMC Theatres guests who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear face coverings at AMC locations, unless it is mandated by state or local ordinances,” AMC said in a statement. “Guests who are not fully vaccinated are asked to continue wearing masks. All other aspects of the AMC Safe & Clean policies and procedures, including seat blocking, remain in place at this time.”
Naturally, an announcement like this immediately raises questions about enforcement: how are theater employees – who will still be required by the companies to wear masks to work – supposed to decipher whether or not their patrons have received the vaccine? The answer, of course, is that it’s essentially impossible: there is no real way for employees to enforce this policy in a practical manner, and masks have unfortunately become such a politicized issue in this country that there’s frankly no way for employees to even broach the topic of vaccines with guests without someone potentially causing a scene.
It’s a weird time for everyone, to say the least. For a variety of reasons – the “X” factor of variants, family members with heightened health risks, etc. – many people are still not fully comfortable with re-entering society without masks, even if they’ve received both doses of the vaccine. And on the other side of the divide, there’s a subgroup of the population that has no intention of ever getting the vaccine and has been blatantly flouting the CDC’s guidelines since the pandemic began. This may seem like a big deal, but upon further reflection, many people who have been visiting movie theaters since they reopened have probably not been wearing masks inside during that time anyway, since they have to remove them to eat or drink. All we can hope is that the number of coronavirus cases continues to trend downward.
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