Staff at Cineworld are petitioning the owners of the chain for customers to wear masks when venues re-open in July.
The move has come after the company's CEO Mooky Greidinger said that once its sites are active again, staff will be required to wear protective masks but customers will not.
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.”
Cineworld is yet to comment on the petition, but it follows a U-turn from US chain AMC - which owns Odeon in the UK - last week over mask wearing at its sites.
AMC owner Adam Aron hit headlines after he suggested that the wearing protective masks was a 'political' matter.
“It might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary,” he told Variety, adding that while the 'vast majority' of cinema-goers would wear masks, he didn't want to be 'drawn into a political controversy' by making it mandatory.
However, after the company was pilloried for the comments, it issued a statement saying: “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks. At AMC Theatres, we think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests.
“Accordingly, and with the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy. As we reopen theaters, we now will require that all AMC guests nationwide wear masks as they enter and enjoy movies at our theaters. 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.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the easing of lockdown measures in the UK yesterday, including the re-opening of cinemas from 4 July.
Social distancing is also to be eased, with the previous two-metre provision now being reduced to 'one metre plus'.