One of the hard and fast rules of movie theaters is that every seat costs the same price. Theaters might charge more or less depending on the time of day, or if they are offering a special feature like 3D. But within each auditorium, a ticket is a flat, fixed rate regardless of where you sit.
But AMC Theatres, the biggest theater chain in the U.S., is going to change that. Today they announced what they call “Sightline at AMC,” a program that creates three tiers of pricing based on where you sit in the theater. The plan is already in effect in select locations and will expand to every domestic AMC theater “by the end of the year,” where it will apply to every showtime starting after 4PM. (So if you’re a fan of matinees, you will largely be unaffected.)
Now seats at AMC theaters will be categories into these three groups:
- Standard Sightline – these seats are the most common in auditoriums and are available for the traditional cost of a ticket
- Value Sightline – these seats are 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. Value Sightline pricing is only available to AMC Stubs members, including the free tier membership – AMC Insider.
- Preferred Sightline – these seats are typically in the middle of the auditorium and are priced at a slight premium to Standard Sightline seats. As an added benefit to AMC’s most loyal moviegoers, AMC Stubs A-List members may make reservations in the Preferred Sightline Section at no additional cost.
In other words: If you sit in the front row, you’ll get to pay less for a ticket. But if you like to sit in the middle of the theater — i.e. the most popular spot with the best view — you’re going to have to pay more, unless you are a member of AMC’s paid loyalty program.
I suppose this is good news for anyone who actually enjoys sitting in the very front row of a theater. (Congrats front-row folks! I do not understand you at all!) For everyone else, this will add at least an additional hassle — because you’re now going to have to choose whether or not to pay extra for a good seat every time you go to an AMC — and potentially an additional cost, to every single movie ticket purchase.
I think we all recognize that movie theaters have had a rough go of it in the past few years, and we all want them to succeed and flourish. But I am not sure making the customer pay more just to sit where they want is the best way to make that happen.