You would think that in the age of streaming media, movie theater ticket prices might fall to keep theater chains more competitive.
If you’re like me, you might struggle to remember the last film you saw in a theater. I thought about it for a while before sitting down to write this post and I honestly can’t remember which it was. Theater ticket prices are one reason for that.
I would place COVID-19 as another. Along with those two, I would like to nominate concession prices and social anxiety.
If I were just absolutely dying to watch a new release, I could easily go to a streaming service like Amazon Prime and rent a new release. (That’s if I wanted to spend $20 just to see it from the comfort of my recliner. Trust me: I don’t care to pay that much to watch a new film from home that quickly after its release. I can wait.)
AMC announced its new Sightline program, which will vary the movie theater ticket prices based on the seat in which you choose to park yourself. The initiative kicks off on Friday at select AMC locations in New York, Chicago and Kansas City and will be expanded to all domestic locations by the end of the year, Variety reports.
So why the change?
It seems obvious to me, despite the official statement as reported by Variety:
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. 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.AMC Theatres Executive Vice President and CMO Eliot Hamlisch
Nice cover story. This is about COVID. It’s also about competition from streaming.
It has nothing to do with making its ticket sales more comparable to other entertainment venues. Movie theaters have been around since 1895. They’ve had plenty of time to make movie theater ticket prices comparable to concert venues.
And the pricing isn’t exactly like those other venues.
I have never attended a concert, primarily because I don’t want to go deaf from the volume and there isn’t a performer I’d pay that much to see in person.
But for those who do go to concerts, or even plays, the pricing structure has long been clear. The best seats, closest to the stage, fetch the premium price. The further back you go (and usually the higher up you go, as in balconies), the cheaper the ticket with some exceptions.
AMC is rolling out three tiers of pricing. The seats up front, the ones some complain that are “too close” and cause headaches as they try to take in the whole screen, will be the cheapest. Those the furthest from the screen will be the second-most expensive. Then there’s that range of seats toward the middle where most people find their happy compromise that will be the priciest.
Well, sure, that makes sense from a pricing standpoint. But it’s not “comparable” to how other venues sell their seats.
I’m not sure how AMC plans to police the seating. Are they going to have armed ushers standing there for the duration of every picture to make sure people sit in the seat for which they paid and don’t switch to a “better” seat once the movie’s over? Maybe I have a devious streak, but I could see some people doing it.
I can’t see people being more likely to see films in theaters with this kind of pricing rolling out.