I do my best not to be overly reactionary regarding the business decisions that corporations make. But I have to say, AMC Theater’s announcement that it will start charging customers different prices for seats in different parts of their movie theaters pissed me off. The obvious money grab dropped yesterday.
“Sightline at AMC more closely aligns AMC’s seat pricing approach to that of many other entertainment venues, offering experienced-based pricing and another way for moviegoers to find value at the movies,” said Eliot Hamlisch, executive VP and CMO at AMC Theatres. “While every seat at AMC delivers an amazing moviegoing experience, we know there are some moviegoers who prioritize their specific seat and others who prioritize value moviegoing. Sightline at AMC accommodates both sentiments to help ensure that our guests have more control over their experience so that every trip to an AMC is a great one.”
The new seating policy will start with theaters in New York, Chicago, and Kansas City with plans to make it national by the end of 2023.
Could this company make a more boneheaded move? After 3 years of crying about streaming services, Studios shortening the first run window and Covid-based audience declines the company is now putting the word out, that if you want to be able to watch a movie without craning your neck you have to pay more.
“Sightline at AMC more closely aligns AMC’s seat pricing approach to that of many other entertainment venues, offering experienced-based pricing and another way for moviegoers to find value at the movies,” said Eliot Hamlisch, executive VP and CMO at AMC Theatres.
The company uses other experiences and larger venues such as live concerts, sporting events, and broadway style theater shows to justify the totally new way of approaching movie tickets. But there is a glaring hole in the argument. Nobody has to sit in any given place to be close to the action. If you are at a stadium show to see Taylor Swift, you may decide to fork over more money to have floor seats close to the stage. Why? Because Tailor Swift is, you know the size of a normal person so it is a lot easier to see her and make out her face and have a better experience if you are closer. With a play or musical, it is the same issue. The action is easier to take in with a closer seat. And Although I have enjoyed many a football game up high, bc it is easier to see the whole field, nobody would rather see a basketball game in the nosebleed seats so high you can barely see the numbers on the jerseys. So there is a motivation for paying more. And it is not getting a headache from straining yourself.
This move feels less like an exhibition space move and more like something an airline would do. Nobody would be surprised to find out that an airline was no longer going to provide beverages without some new cost or making people request it on an app. People hate the airline industry for a reason. Raising fees on bags etc. But movie theaters have always been more about making money on concessions, not seat preferences.
My guess is that this will result in serious blowback and that the chain will abandon the plan before 2023. If it sticks with it and others follow it will surely lead to a precipitous decline in the movie crowd. People already complain about pricing in general and the fact that AMC Stubs members can avoid the fees will not matter, because the explanation of how everything works is too complicated compared to “AMC is gonna charge extra to sit in the middle of the theater”. AMC also waives fees for A-List members who have a monthly subscription that allows them to see 3 movies in any type of format they choose per week. It won’t matter. If the move is designed to encourage people to set up a subscription it will not work out that way.
Heads should roll for this one.