Drafthouse Announces Mandatory Masks, But No Opening Date

Alamo policy comes as AMC reverses course

Photo by John Anderson

No mask, no movie. The Alamo Drafthouse, the Austin-based cinema chain's has just announced that, whenever it reopens after the coronavirus lockdown, all customers will be required to wear masks.

The announcement does come with two codas. First, if a customer does not have a mask, they will be given one. Second, they will not be required to wear the mask when they are eating or drinking (which considering one of the major selling points of the Drafthouse is the in-seat food and alcohol service, that's probably going to translate to a lot of maskless time). Here's the full statement, released via Twitter:

"When we open, the safety of our teammates and guests cannot be compromised. This is not political.

We will require that guests wear masks at the theater (except when eating/drinking). Those without masks will be given one.

The "This is not political" section is a less-than-oblique reference to the situation at AMC Theaters, which initially announced that, when its cinemas reopen on July 15, they will not require customers to wear masks. In a widely-lambasted statement, CEO Adam Aron said that, while he would wear one and expected that most customers would do so anyway, the company “did not want to be drawn into political controversy." He has now walked back both the statement and the policy, so now customers will be required to wear masks. The company has said that the change is in response to the criticism, adding that, "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.”

With drive-ins already open and thriving, the indoor theater industry seems to be gearing up for a July 15 re-opening (although it is currently unclear which chains will jump on that date). In Texas, EVO Cinemas (which already has several locations working at partial capacity) announced that it will reopen its Springtown and Belterra Village (formerly Sky Cinemas) sites on July 8, followed by Starplex in San Marcos on July 15, and Friztown in Fredericksburg on July 20.

The question is whether the films will be there for them to screen. Disney still has Mulan opening July 24, while Warner Brothers has Tenet down for July 31. However, those dates depend on whether cinemas in major markets, most especially in New York and Los Angeles, will be open to accept them. If that sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation, well, welcome to the enigma of distribution in 2020.

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