What’s keeping you from hitting the local multiplex up more often? Too many people? Uncomfortable seats? Outdated theaters? Well, the AMC movie theater chain just might have a solution that will fix all of those issues — even if it will eventually cost you a premium on your already hefty-ticket price.
The Wall Street Journal reports that AMC is launching a major remodel to provide theater-goers with something special: making their movie theaters as comfortable as some people’s homes. Alrighty then. The outlet shares that AMC (the country’s second-largest movie theater chain) will spend an estimated $600 million over the next five years to refurbish 1,800 of its theaters (and that’s individual screens, not total movie theaters, each screen renovation can cost up to half a million dollars each) with brand new reclining seats — “La-Z-Boy-type” fixtures — in an attempt to lure in more customers.
The new “reseating” plan comes with a number of caveats — number one, by putting these premium seats into existing auditoriums, the company will be taking away approximately two-thirds of each seat already in use. As the WSJ notes, “the conversions highlight a liability facing the country’s biggest film exhibitors: a supply of outdated theaters that rarely sell out, yet would be costly to tear down and rebuild.” The renovations will be targeted at under-performing theaters (“major markets like Los Angeles or New York don’t need cushy seats to attract customers, so it doesn’t make sense to cut their capacities”), and the chain will also try to install other seats — ones that don’t entirely recline, thus not necessitating the loss of so many seats, in another set of theaters that already perform okay.
AMC has already started moving into the premium seating business — the chain owns a small number of “dine-in” theaters that use the cushy seats, while also providing waiter service to movie-goers while they watch their films. They’ve also renovated a number of their auditoriums with just the seats already, reportedly seeing attendance jumping up about 80% at each newly reseated theater.
The chain has also, quite notably, worked to make their concession options more intriguing and different. Your local AMC probably packs chicken fingers and individual pizzas in right alongside popcorn and candy (the AMC Empire in Times Square offers all sorts of treats, too, from Lunchable-like snack packs to individual hummus cups).
AMC isn’t the only chain embracing this strategy — Regal theaters (number one to AMC’s number two) are also reseating some of their theaters. The WSJ reports that they will have renovated about 25 theaters by the year’s end. If that sounds like far less than AMC, it’s because it really is, as the paper notes that Regal is taking a “more-cautious approach” to the plan.
So how will this effect your movie ticket price? Although AMC doesn’t typically change the price point in its renovated theaters within the first year (a trap!), they will eventually tack on $1 to $1.25 in the next year.
Will more cushy seats change your movie-going habits? Do you want to be able to recline all the way back the next time you see a blockbuster?
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