AMC Theaters, assigned seats and going to movies in your 40s

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

A. and I are old. (Ok, “older”). At this point in our 40s, we’re not in the prime demographics for any media other than Downton Abbey.

We still like to watch movies, though. We’ve worked hard this year to see a movie every Saturday night. We have charts of our progress, and the points of data make a beautiful line.

Most of the time, this is via Netflix DVDs. I actively manage the queue (recent items: Her, Gremlins and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and we block off time in our shared calendar. Each Saturday night as the clock strikes 7, the girls are put to bed, the wine is poured, the cats are comfortable, and we watch the movie.

That said, we still like to see movies in the theaters (it’s useful to still be culturally relevant occasionally), though this happens less often as the years have gone by.

Why? The logistics are painful. We have to get a babysitter (we can generally pull this together every six weeks or so), and then we need to fight the crowds, hope that we can get into the movie, fight for seats, etc. The friction keeps us away.

So, for the past few years, we’ve very rarely seen any movies in their first few weeks in the theater. There’s no way we’re going near the cineplex for opening weekend of The Avengers. We’ll see it four weeks later (all the while desperately trying to avoid spoilers).

But last Saturday night we saw Mockingjay on opening weekend at our local theater, AMC in Burlington. Without wanting to kill ourselves.

What changed?

AMC has started having assigned seats. This one change will make them a couple of hundred extra dollars a year from my family.

The Jobs to Be Done are pretty clear for me: amuse me for a couple of hours; spend some couple time with A.; don’t annoy me; and don’t cause extra cognitive overhead.

The biggest pain for me is the uncertainty. Will I be able to get a ticket? Will we be able to get decent seats together? Will it be a wasted trip?

Advance ticketing solved the sellout problem. Advance seat selection solved the seating problem. There is no chance that it will be a wasted trip. They have minimized my cognitive overhead, and — bonus — given us extra time to actually enjoy our dinner, as opposed to just wolfing it down.

AMC may even be getting a price premium, I really don’t know. In the context of a night out with a babysitter at home, the difference between a $10 ticket and a $15 ticket is negligible.

I’m glad to see businesses competing by upping their game as opposed to trying to nickel and dime, cut costs and optimize for “how crappy can we make the experience without driving everyone away.”

Good for AMC. We’ll be giving them more money soon.

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