Here's your latest in news that's totally ticked me — a regular moviegoer, lover of and writer covering film — off today: AMC is pivoting to tiered pricing based on where your seat is in their theaters, which essentially means they're pivoting to charging us more for not wanting to have neck cramps for three to five business days after every showing we go to. Thanks, AMC.
According to Variety, the new program is titled "Sightline at AMC." This pricing initiative will not only price prime seats at a higher rate — aka the middle of the theater where most people would prefer to sit — but it will price less favorable seats at some kind of discount. You know, those seats in the very front that people generally only sit in when the movie's sold out and there is literally nowhere else to go? Yeah, if you need to save some coin (understandable, in this economy) and don't mind screwing up your neck for the foreseeable future, those seats might be for you.
The change will include three tiers. "Standard" tickets are "seats that are the most common in auditoriums and are available for the traditional cost of a ticket." Next tier is "Value," which are "seats in the front row of the auditorium, as well as select ADA seats in each auditorium, and are available at a lower price than standard sightline seats." However, only AMC Stubs members will be able to access the lower prices here. Finally, there is "Preferred," which are seats in the middle of the auditorium and are priced at a premium to standard sightline seats." Stubs members will be able to reserve these seats for no charge.
The Rights We Have As Moviegoers
Sadly, there is approximately no wait for this change to be implemented, at least if you live in three of the country's major cities. Sightline at AMC will begin on Friday, February 10 at select AMC locations in New York, Chicago, and Kansas City. By the end of the year, it will expand to all AMC locations in the United States.
Allow me to get on my soapbox for a few more minutes here. I know I've already let you know that I'm not jiving with AMC's decision. But there are other reasons — aside from the aforementioned neck-ruining sentence one must face when sitting in those cheaper front row seats — why this injustice should not stand.
First of all: Do you remember how cheap it used to be, in your childhood, to go to the movies? It's already expensive to have a night at the cinema, and now, with this increase to simply sit in a seat I would have already sat in is a prime example of how culture nickels and dimes us to death. Further, premium screenings like IMAX and Dolby showings will also most likely see a similar increase in price with this initiative. Finally, I should be able to sit wherever I want; I've already paid, haven't I?
This change doesn't encourage folks to come out to the movies, and it is definitely going to be a bumpy ride for their lower-paid, customer-facing employees to deal with, mainly most likely from irate customers. It's not a good brand-building, or in AMC's case brand-solidifying, move, nor is it something their retail employees should bear the brunt of. Plus, because of how much it's going to turn people off, it probably isn't going to make the kind of money they want it to, either.
It Was Always Going To Be This Way
Funnily enough, Steven Spielberg predicted the idea of variable ticket pricing in movie theaters nearly ten years ago. The filmmaker responsible for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Jurassic Park" (along with, you know, a few other movies you've probably heard of) and his pal, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, talked about this very issue during a discussion about the future of entertainment at the University of Southern California in 2013. Spielberg explained that this day was coming no matter what, stating, "Eventually there's going to be a price variance. You're going to have to pay $25 to see the next 'Iron Man.' And you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see 'Lincoln.'"
Unfortunately, the "Fabelmans" director was right on the money — but hopefully, his prediction will go up in a fiery blaze in practice. In the meantime (and always), support your local indie and arthouse cinemas.
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