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Cinemark will, in fact, require you to wear a face mask in its theaters after first releasing a murky policy that encouraged—but did not require—face coverings. That policy naturally received blowback as we have been, and continue to be, in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
The company now states on its website that as part of the protocols it’s implemented for the protection of both employees and moviegoers that masks must “be worn throughout our theaters,” with the exception of eating and drinking when seated for a movie, as noted by the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline. The theater chain is also urging contactless ticketing by encouraging customers to purchase their tickets online, and has asked guests to maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others while on the premises.
In an emailed statement, a Cinemark representative told Gizmodo that the health and safety of its staff as well as moviegoers “is a top priority.”
“As we closely monitor the status of covid-19, Cinemark has opted to implement a nationwide policy that requires all of our guests to wear face masks while in our theaters,” the representative said. “If a guest forgets his or her mask, Cinemark will have a select amount available at all of our theaters.”
Previously, Cinemark merely encouraged folks to wear masks except in regions with rules in place requiring face coverings indoors. Rival theater chain AMC also reversed its position on mask requirements last month after CEO and President Adam Aron told Variety that the company “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” an absolutely dumbfounding statement that undermines all scientific evidence that indicates masks help mitigate the spread of the virus and protect those who are most at risk of experiencing serious and potentially deadly health complications.
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The issue, though, is that there’s really no way to police the mask policy once people are seated in the theaters. And while people are snacking, those masks are coming off—and because people can be asymptomatic or presymptomatic for days, even the best-intentioned moviegoers could be a risk to those around them in auditoriums with circulated air. This puts already strapped movie theaters in an incredibly tough position.
But personal health and safety should absolutely take precedence here, and staying home and streaming a new release may be the best option for some folks until theaters and local governments can figure out a better system for protecting people in these environments.