Cineworld U.K. Staff Petitions Management to Force Audiences to Wear Masks

Naman Ramachandran and Manori Ravindran

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The Cineworld Action Group, an independent org representing the cinema operator’s U.K. staff, has begun a petition demanding that management require cinema patrons to wear masks, in addition to cinema staff.

The petition is in response to a statement by Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger, who said in a recent interview that staff would be required to wear masks or face coverings, but customers would not. It’s understood the interview came ahead of Cineworld-owned U.S. chain Regal Cinemas requiring audiences to wear masks.

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In the U.K., however, there still remains uncertainty around what is expected of audiences inside movie theaters. Mask-wearing is only mandatory on public transit and in hospitals in the U.K.

The petition reads: “We propose that customers are required to wear a mask/face covering to enter Cineworld sites, and should at least have to wear them in high traffic areas (corridors/foyers/concessions), where the most contact is likely to occur. These restrictions can be eased in the auditoriums where social distancing can be maintained throughout the duration of a film.”

“By requiring customers to also wear masks, they reduce the likelihood of infecting other customers [and] staff. If numerous staff were to contract the virus, we fear that the [company’s] operations could be adversely affected, resulting in job losses,” the petition concludes.

Cineworld did not respond to request for comment by press time.

The petition comes just days after AMC Theatres reversed its own mask-wearing policy after AMC boss Adam Aron spurred a deluge of criticism and controversy when he told Variety that the protective measure would be encouraged but not mandated in states where it was not a requirement.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron told Variety. “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.”

Cineworld is due to reopen its cinemas from July 10. On Tuesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that cinemas in England can open from July 4, and that social distancing can be reduced from two meters to one meter, as part of further lockdown relaxations. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own timelines.

U.K. cinemas shuttered in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The country has recorded 305,289 cases with 42,647 deaths. On Monday, the number of recorded coronavirus cases was 958 — the lowest tally since lockdown began on March 23. “Infections are falling, the NHS is restoring and the virus is in retreat,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

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