The change comes as the North American box office heats up this weekend. Paramount’s A Quiet Place, Part II and Disney’s Cruella are battling over Memorial Day, the traditional marker of the summer box office. The films entered today with more than $6 million in Thursday night preview receipts between them. Coronavirus infection rates are declining across the U.S. and hopes are running high in the movie business for a return to healthy grosses.
About 40% of U.S. residents have been fully vaccinated, and half have had at least one vaccine dose. Different states have adopted different guidelines for businesses and public spaces, with some dropping mask requirements months ago and others continuing to require them.
“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,” reads AMC’s 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.”
On Regal’s website, the company describes its current policy. “Masks will not be required unless mandated by state and local guidelines,” the site says. “Where masks are mandated, they can be removed only while eating and drinking while seated in an auditorium.
Employees of the theater operations will still be required to wear masks.
Major chains last August had formed an industry initiative called CinemaSafe, which was aimed at conveying the relative safety of movie theaters compared with bars and other indoor spaces. Most circuits have invested heavily in air filtration and cleaning supplies and in many states attendance is still limited, either by seating capacity or distancing requirements.
AMC CEO Adam Aron faced backlash last year at this time after saying the circuit wouldn’t attempt a “political” mask requirement. He then reversed course and by June 2020 the No. 1 circuit was requiring masks.