AMC Entertainment to reopen 450 U.S. theaters on July 15

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AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. said on Thursday it plans to reopen 450 theaters in the United States on July 15 and expects to return to full seating capacity around Thanksgiving.

The world’s largest movie theater operator also said it would reopen the remaining 150 theaters in the country in time for the opening of Walt Disney Co.’s “Mulan” on July 24 and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” on July 31.

Shares of AMC rose about 8 percent to $6.08 in premarket trading on Friday.

The company said it would initially adopt limited seating and enforce social distancing across all theaters, with every auditorium being cleaned between shows and routinely disinfected.

AMC Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron said in an interview to Variety magazine on Thursday the company did not want to get into a “political controversy” by forcing people to wear masks inside movie halls.

The statement prompted a backlash on social media, with several Twitter users blaming the movie chain for not prioritizing the health of its guests.

Actor Elijah Wood, in response to AMC’s statement, tweeted, “And masks, you should require masks. Has nothing to do with politics, but rather, public health.”

AMC, which did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, had earlier said it will not require all its guests to wear a mask but “strongly encourages” them to wear one.

However, moviegoers in states where masks are mandatory will be required to wear a mask.