I don’t think I need to remind any of you how COVID-19 has been and continues to be a monumental catastrofuck that has brought the world to a standstill and has affected the lives of far too many people. I don’t need to remind you of how some of us have had to stay home and be with our loved ones while watching countless hours of news footage and reading countless news articles about this pandemic, and how it’s being handled, and how it has brought out the very best and the absolute worst in us in how we’ve been reacting to it. I don’t need to remind you of how too many people had to experience an actual pandemic to finally realize the importance of using soap and water to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly, while also acting like characters in Battle Royale as we watched people fight retail workers and each other over toilet paper as if one of the COVID-19 symptoms was constant projectile diarrhea. I don’t need to remind you of how some of us have had the “luxury” of being able to work from home and stay safe, while others (mostly Black and brown people) have no choice but to continue driving or taking public transportation to work and putting their health and their lives at risk for jobs that consider them far too
sacrificial essential to allow them to do otherwise.
And I don’t have to remind you of how many people have died as a result of COVID-19, and of how too many people continue to die from COVID-19. Of how the body count has become so high that the New York Times used their entire front page to recently post the 100,000 names and brief obituaries of those people who died in order to pay tribute to them and to make sure that we never forget that they are more than just numbers and statistics in a 24-hour news cycle.
I don’t have to remind any of you of this. But someone who clearly does need to be reminded of this is Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres.
Since late March, all movie theaters have been closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and because numbers of people testing COVID-positive are still climbing in several states, and we still don’t know when a vaccine will become a reality and be made available to the general public, they were expected to remain closed until Fall of this year or until early 2021, when things would hopefully improve and numbers would drastically decrease across the country. And despite the fact that there is still no vaccine in sight and that more people are becoming COVID-positive as a result of many states reopening their businesses, Aron announced yesterday that AMC Theaters would be open for business once again starting July 15th. Just in time for audiences to see Mulan, which still has a placeholder release date of July 24th, and Tenet, which was originally expected to open on July 17th, but had its release date pushed back by a whopping two weeks to July 30th.
The company is expected to resume operations in 450 of those locations on July 15 and expects to be almost fully operational by the time that Disney’s “Mulan” debuts on July 24 and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” bows on July 31.
As part of that process, AMC is reducing its seating capacity in order to help people social distance, it is implementing new cleaning procedures, placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout its theaters and encouraging contact-less and cash-free concessions.
“We didn’t rush to reopen,” AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said in an interview with Variety. “There were some jurisdictions in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, that allowed people to reopen theaters in mid-May. We opted to remain closed, so we could give the country time to get a better handle on coronavirus. We wanted to use this time to figure out how best to open and how to do so safely.”
And after months of needing and having to stay at home, I’m sure that Adam Aron expected all of us to rejoice at the news of movie theaters reopening again. But that certainly didn’t happen, not after he made it clear that he had no intention of enforcing the policy of having moviegoers wear their masks when coming to AMC theaters because to do so would be too political.
AMC will not mandate that all guests wear masks, although employees will be required to do so. Nor will AMC perform temperature checks on customers, though it will monitor its employees’ temperatures and have them undergo screenings to check for signs of coronavirus. The situation will be different in states and cities that require residents to wear a mask when they’re in public, but Aron said that AMC was wary of wading into a public health issue that has become politicized.
“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” said Aron. “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.”
Needless to say, Twitter had a lot to say in response to the CEO of AMC theaters acting as if wearing a mask to keep others safe is a political issue.
Hey, AMC theatres, we’ve spent several years on twitter being as positive and joyful about movies & movie theaters as we could possible be, because they are the most wonderful places on earth. So please hear us now, throwing all that away to say, fuck off. https://t.co/XElVnhPZTY— Bright Wall/Dark Room (@BWDR) June 19, 2020
We promise, no one loves the theater experience more than us (it’s, um, literally what our name is based on) but if you’re opening your theater now, you’re wrong. & if you’re doing it without requiring, at a *minimum*, that everybody wears masks, you’re the worst. Tenet can wait.— Bright Wall/Dark Room (@BWDR) June 19, 2020
Two reasons not to go to the AMC theaters 1) it’s a big health risk 2) the CEO is an idiot https://t.co/OL8APvNCcM— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) June 19, 2020
Look, I miss going the movies more than just about anything. Movie theaters are my church. I would love to see MULAN & TENET on the big screen. But wearing masks saves lives. That’s science. This is dangerous and I will have no part of @AMCTheatres #maskup https://t.co/IJ2FXp4jPQ— Yuri Lowenthal (@YuriLowenthal) June 19, 2020
Why not now? Why did they close at all? I say this not because I think they should open, but because literally nothing has changed. Still no vaccine. Still spikes in new cases. These random dates infuriate the shit out of me. Own your corporate greed. Say it with your chest. https://t.co/CKSRaEe8gB— [kie.ran] (@danblackroyd) June 18, 2020
Ok @AMCTheatres, your CEO just drew you into a controversy and definitely made sure that I and anyone else who values life will NOT be going to your theaters as they will now be known incubators for coronavirus. https://t.co/piwXpB1TxN— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) June 19, 2020
PANDEMIC IS NOT POLITICAL. As an epidemiologist, what @AMCTheatres is doing is incredibly dangerous. Public health scientists fight like mad to save lives, all so @CEOAdam can squander it all. Also, you make $9.6 mil/year, but your AMC frontline workers facing the epidemic don’t. https://t.co/Gsz0HrUh6b— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) June 19, 2020
And masks, you should require masks. Has nothing to do with politics, but rather, public health. https://t.co/Pd9pQYbOcA— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) June 19, 2020
My name is Coronavirus and I approve this message. https://t.co/ZoWhtWOBvN— Broadus ⚒️ Wartime Consigliere (@Broadus) June 19, 2020
BREAKING: AMC is going out of business. https://t.co/o5MqX9lya7— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) June 19, 2020
Soon enough, the hashtag #BoycottAMC was created in response to this news, which made it even easier for people to continue talking shit about the theater chain and stating that they were permanently taking their business elsewhere.
Dear @AMCTheatres ,— Peter Morley (@morethanmySLE) June 19, 2020
I am a person with 10+ pre-existing conditions.
I'm also a huge movie lover.
I hope you know that it's nothing political when I say that I will #BoycottAMC
It's a matter of life or death for me & you've lost a customer for life. https://t.co/Irpf82QewJ
I was already on the fence about continuing my A-list membership WITH a mask. So this just made my decision that much easier.— DC The Bruin 💛💙🐻✌ (@DCtheBruin) June 19, 2020
And just like that …
🎩 🐰POOF 💨 I’m gone#BoycottAMCTheaters #BoycottAMC😷 pic.twitter.com/Nh1mby8x4I
Thank you to AMC and other businesses who are making clear they don’t give a shit about their customers. https://t.co/yOzfyFIxQu— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) June 19, 2020
Congratulations, @AMCTheatres. All you did with this announcement was convince a lot of people to kick you to the curb, and go to drive-in theaters instead like… https://t.co/CT3etRRSmE pic.twitter.com/h3MDXJJOBd— hellresidentNY (@hellresidentNY) June 19, 2020
And as some people pointed out, AMC wasn’t the only theater chain going forward with this questionable decision, as Cinemark Theatres and Regal Cinemas also stated their intention of not enforcing the policy of customers wearing masks, but it didn’t stop AMC from getting the majority of the backlash for it.
Thank you to AMC and other businesses who are making clear they don’t give a shit about their customers. https://t.co/yOzfyFIxQu— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) June 19, 2020
Because the head of AMC spoke to Variety and was candid about mask policy, AMC is being (rightly) slammed for not mandating masks. But Cinemark and Regal won’t require masks, either, no doubt for same reason.— TVMoJoe (@TVMoJoe) June 19, 2020
Also: AMC will *sell* masks for $1. Incredible. pic.twitter.com/f14z6JCdz9
Everyone's yelling at AMC for not requiring masks, but don't forget to yell at Cinemark and Regal for not requiring masks! pic.twitter.com/wzedLfqXyP— Scott Gairdner (@scottgairdner) June 18, 2020
It’s clear to anyone who has been paying close attention to how business have been affected by COVID-19 that AMC has taken quite the massive hit these last few months as a result of their theaters being closed, and are on the brink of having to declare bankruptcy as a result. From Variety:
Noting that the onset of COVID-19 has forced it to shutter its more than 1,000 theaters and layoff or furlough 600 corporate employees, the company said it has been operating for months with no revenue. It acknowledged that when movie theaters are allowed to reopen, customers may be hesitant to come back, complying with new health guidelines could add costs and cut into profits, and the heavily indebted company could force problems gaining access to capital. Because of this laundry list of unknowns, AMC writes that “…substantial doubt exists about our ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time.”
The acknowledgment of the stark reality facing the exhibition space came as AMC said that it expects its first-quarter financial results to include a loss of between $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion. That is largely attributable to a $2 billion impairment charge related to the coronavirus shutdown. Net losses for the quarter increased to $224.5 million, up from $101.8 million in the prior-year period, while revenue fell to $941.5 million, down from $1.2 billion in the same quarter in 2019.
It’s the main reason why AMC is hoping for things to get back to “normal” so that they can keep from this scenario from becoming a reality, and hoping that director Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated sci-fi/action film Tenet will be the film that convinces everyone to go back to movie theaters again and help keep them afloat.
But with movie theaters having to operate at 25 to 50 percent capacity, and with many people still feeling very reluctant to even consider setting foot in a movie theater again (to the point that many don’t see themselves going to a movie theater again until 2021 or until we have a fully functional vaccine, whichever comes first), there is no guarantee that the releases of Tenet and Mulan will keep theater chains like AMC from sinking, let alone that these films will even be financially successful, as Tenet and Mulan each have a budget of $200 million, which is partly why Warner Bros. and Disney would rather wait until 2021 to release the films to theaters that can permit full capacity in their auditoriums instead of streaming them to be watched at home on demand. That, and because Nolan really wants Tenet to be the film that keeps the movie theater industry alive, according to this article from Slashfilm.com, and if that is really to be believed, that only reminds me very uncomfortably of this scene from Titanic.
I would absolutely love to be able to go to movie theaters again, and to see Tenet in IMAX on opening night with a full house of other moviegoers while eating from a large bag of Twizzlers that I bought from Walgreens or RiteAid and snuck into the theater instead of buying a smaller and more expensive one from the theater’s concession stand. (And if you even think of commenting that Red Vines are better and that I should eat those instead…they’re not, and I feel the same way about Twizzlers vs. Red Vines as Ben Wyatt’s dad) But that can’t and shouldn’t happen right now because we’re still in the middle of a f**king pandemic, and for AMC and other theater chains to reopen for business in the middle of said pandemic, let alone shrug their shoulders at their customers wearing masks to keep each other safe, is both unsafe and downright irresponsible. And if AMC hates their current financial situation now, how much better do they think it will get when (not if, but when) someone ends up becoming sick with COVID-19 as a result of seeing a movie at an AMC theater? The backlash they’re experiencing right now (which is probably causing Adam Aron to start backpedaling and draft a long-ass apology/explanation in his Notes app to calm everyone down and to save his fucking job) will sound like a ‘Karen’ complaining about not getting to eat Cheddar Bay biscuits at Red Lobster compared to the backlash they will get as a result of their greed and irresponsibility causing more people to end up sick and/or dying as a result, and they will want nothing more than to simply disappear like so…
And to Christopher Nolan: I doubt that you’ll read this and that this article will make its way to you (then again, I never would’ve guessed that you’re a hardcore fan of Macgruber, so stranger things have happened) but let me say this to you as if you are reading this: I don’t know if it’s you or Warner Bros. determined to have Tenet open in theaters next month, but no matter who is being stubborn about this, just fucking delay the release of Tenet until 2021 already! Seriously, just do it! If we can all wait until next year to see Fast 9, and to finally see Han Seoul-Oh get the justice he so rightfully deserves, we can and will also wait to see Tenet, and Black Widow, and In The Heights, and A Quiet Place Part 2. Because the next time I sit down in a movie theater, I would like to give my full attention to the movie I’m watching, and not spend half of my time wondering if I’m going to end up breathing through a ventilator for weeks before dying alone in a hospital bed. And if there’s anyone who should support movie theaters being a safe and joyous environment for all of its audiences, and not a place where people have to fear for their lives and their well-being, it’s you.
(And no, I am not at all blaming Nolan for those twelve deaths in Aurora, Colorado, because the only person responsible for that is the person who murdered them. But he should want movie theaters to be as safe and enjoyable as possible for all moviegoers, and good luck having a gay old time at the movies in a theater that is run by people who care less about your overall health and well-being, and more about getting their hands on your money.)
Well, that didn’t take long at all. Apparently, AMC Theaters and its CEO realized how badly they f**ked up and have reversed their stance on customers needing to wear masks. From The Hollywood Reporter:
At AMC, we have been consulting with top scientists and health experts to create a broad, sweeping, far-reaching health and safety effort to make AMC Theatres safe for our guests and associates when our theatres reopen in July. Among many elements of that comprehensive plan was a requirement for our associates all to wear masks nationwide, as well as a requirement for our guests all to wear masks in the many parts of the country that will require it. In those areas of the country where masks will not be required, we nonetheless planned to strongly encourage mask usage by guests, and fully expected that the vast majority would do so. That policy on guest mask usage, which is directly comparable with our major competitors and many other highly regarded retailers, was announced yesterday 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 theatres, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theatres. 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.
We will constantly monitor the scientific community’s latest thinking as to the efficacy of mask usage. We also will be looking at the varying health conditions in specific localities around our theatres all across the country. This will help us to determine what our mask policy will be as we go forward, as well as to make any other needed changes to this policy.
Guests coming to our theaters may bring their own masks of course, but for those who do not have one, masks will be available at our theatre box offices at a nominal $1.00 price. Those who are unwilling to wear a mask will not be admitted or allowed to stay.
All that being said — and I’m glad that they finally got some damn Act-Right — that still isn’t stopping AMC and other theater chains from being like this with how they want your money and your business …
Header Image Source: Getty Images