Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder how the folks who come up with marketing plans dream up the policies that they implement. Case in point, the recently announced plan by AMC Theaters to price movie tickets based on where you sit.
Remember, this is coming at a time when theater owners are begging people to come back to their theaters, buy their expensive popcorn, candy and soft drinks and skip staying at home and watching films that come out fairly soon, on streaming services.
I’m one of those people who loves seeing films (most but not all) in movie theaters. I loved being at the now closed AMC at the Seacourt Pavilion in Toms River during the pandemic when theaters were just starting to reopen.
One cold Friday night I was watching Milla Jovovich blowing up monsters with grenades in the film “Monster Hunter.” I was the only person in that theater and at the time, I still kept my mask on inside but it was a film that was big screen worthy in my opinion.
I can recite the entire narration of actress Nicole Kidman’s walk from a rainy night into a darkened theater as she talks about how “heart break feels good here” and how “the magic is powerful here.”
I swear it gets my heart going because I believe she’s right, seeing movies in theaters does have a bit of spectacle and magic but AMC is killing that magic with this bonehead move.
AMC Theaters, the nation’s largest movie theater chain announced plans to change the way that it prices tickets. The new initiative called “Sightline at AMC” will eliminate the one-price-fits-all approach to selling tickets and under this new model will divide up an auditorium’s seats into “standard sightline” “value sightline” and “preferred sightline” tiers.
The standard seats which the movie chain identifies as the most “common” will be available for the normal price of the ticket which these days average to about $12 although senior prices and matinee/first screening prices vary. Value seating is in the front row and will be sold at a lower price than normal. Those are the ones you might get a neck cramp from but at least you still have the comfy chair to lounge around in.
Now we come to those coveted medium row seats, the preferred sightline upcharge which AMC describes as a slight premium price. A seating map will show the price differences when customers are purchasing their tickets. Wow, I have enough of a problem just figuring out where my seat is.
AMC Chief Marketing Officer Eliot Hamlisch described this move as bringing movie theaters in line with other entertainment venues where ticket prices range in price depending where you sit. Hey Eliot, those venues feature live shows, sporting events and concerts – not films.
Sightline pricing thankfully won’t apply to matinee showtimes before 4 p.m. and those customers who pay for AMC Stubs A-List memberships will be exempt from all this nonsense.
This is a time when theater owners should perhaps consider adding some extras to get folks inside their establishments, like bringing back short features (even cartoons) that we can’t get elsewhere. By all means keep Maria Menounos’s movie trivia quizzes (by the way did she always have that weird laugh during those segments?) and how about some special value movie nights?
How about a live guest introduction to some of those classic films that run during the month even if it is by a member of the staff? Make going to a theater a truly fun experience.
I understand that everything is going up. Heck, when my wife sent me a honey-do message to pick up a carton of eggs on my way home from work the other day, I messaged her back and asked if I should make the purchase through our savings account or to cash a bond.
I greatly sympathize with those in the movie theater business who have experienced a major hit during the pandemic and are not yet back to where they once were.
This move, however, is not what the industry needs. I still have many friends who were devoted movie goers and who are now quite comfortable waiting to see a film when it hits the small screen through a streaming service or even later when it comes out to the library system. At most they’ll only venture out for an Avatar, Star Wars, Marvel or DC big screen extravaganza.
Now you will be competing for cheaper seats, navigating your online purchases of seats and giving us the same product including overpriced candy, popcorn and beverages. AMC, I think you are doing a disservice to your audience and ticking off those loyal theater goers who remember the magic that Nicole Kidman is talking about.
There isn’t enough free refill soda and buttered popcorn available to make this move (that will hit NJ AMC theaters by the end of the year) easy to swallow.
Assistant News Editor