I’d heard the advertisements on the radio. ”Empire Theatres introduces Reserved Seating!” Sure… makes sense… maybe… if you’re home and want to purchase your ticket online, maybe you’d like to make sure that you get your favourite seat too. Maybe it’s premiere night for the latest summer blockbuster, and you absolutely must sit in the front row. I can see that. Maybe.
But when I’m standing at the counter trying to decide whether I want popcorn or nachos, and the kid shows me a seating plan and asks me to make my selection for my reserved seat… I start to get grumpy. [Here is my public apology to my date that night for making a little scene... I was really tired... I'm sorry.]
I don’t want to choose based on a little diagram of what seats are available. This is a movie. Not a play. Not an opera. Not a hockey game. It’s a movie. I want to walk into the theatre and look around and make that decision on the spot. If I see an 8 foot tall man, I’m probably not going to sit behind him. I’m also not likely to sit in front of the group of teenage boys with their feet kicked up on the seats in front of them and throwing popcorn at a group of girls 3 rows over. It just doesn’t make sense for me to be forced to make that decision before getting in there. But don’t even try to say that you don’t want reserved seating. You have to take it.
In fairness to Empire Theatres one of the supervisors did tell me that I could switch my seat for any reason once I got in there… although I would have to notify the usher that I was doing so… presumably they carry handheld devices to update the seating plan on the fly. [And if that's the case, why not allow me to choose my seat when I get into the theatre and have an usher simply mark those seats as "occupied" in the computer?]
The big question I have is why bring in Reserved Seating in the first place? It has been suggested that they are trying to enhance my movie experience, that perhaps they are losing revenue to pirated copies being traded on the internet. There’s no doubt that does happen, although it’s never been proven that the movie industry is hurting because of online piracy. Here’s a thought… maybe if they made better movies people would flock to the theatre to watch them?
But Empire Theatres has no control over what movies are being produced, so perhaps they could enhance my viewing experience in a different way. The first thing that jumps to my mind is pricing! Remember when you could take a date to a movie and buy popcorn and pop to share, all for less than $25? I think that’s a pretty good price point. It’s ridiculous that a night out is easily $40. And don’t get me started on that $3 fee for those 3D glasses that I’m supposed to return after the movie is over. If Empire Theatres is serious about trying to bring more people back into their premises then they want to give some thought as to why some people may have stopped going in the first place.
I doubt that it was because people couldn’t reserve their seat at the concession counter.