Is VIP cinema seating needed?

CinemaSeats.jpgThere’s an interesting article in The Guardian today about VIP cinema seating being introduced in America. Typically they are talking about things such as:

…extra-wide, VIP leather seats – no arm-rest sharing here – and private concession stands. Some other theater chains offer valet parking and fine dining…
…glasses of wine and higher-priced seats in an atmosphere that has a country club feel…
…free coat check, lounge chairs to watch the show and a restaurant…
…offer first-class seats that are sectioned off and reserved inside the traditional theater and allow those customers to order snacks from their seats…
…a separate entrance to the premier seating area. An escalator takes moviegoers to a bistro and bar where they can eat dinner, have a drink or walk down a hallway to one of six balcony seating areas…
…love seats in the balconies, and the popcorn is free.

You get the idea. The article talks about some of these attractive measures taken to enhance the audience experience to allow the cinema to take more money, as obviously these tickets cost more, and the range is from $2 to double the ticket price.

I think that’s great, reducing the noise of Mr and Mrs Annoying crunching their popcorn with their mouth open, pulling it from a paper rustling container, while slurping juice through a straw, and having Mrs Annoying ask Mr Annoying what’s going on every two minutes while he tells her what’s about to happen, is not something that adds to my enjoyment of the movie. I didn’t pay the entrance price for that, it wasn’t billed as an additional extra on my ticket, so no thank you.

Yet, I’m still not for a lot of these changes. Like one person interviewed for the article:

…most customers, like Will Norris of Toledo, are satisfied enough to opt against the extras. “Movie theater seats are so comfortable now anyway,”…

They are, most cinemas are now good enough that you can sit through a three hour movie without getting a sore bum, so that covers you for about everything. Still, I found the idea of additional extras interesting, so I tried it.

Mr and Mrs Annoying turned out to prefer the upgrades too. It didn’t help that the way it was implemented in the UGC Cinema (a leading UK chain) is quite pathetic.

You get added arm room and a button to call the chair service. I found out that this consists of a single light appearing in the waiting area showing that someone from cinema X is calling for service. The waiter\waitress then has to walk in, stand at the bottom of the cinema near the front of the screen and scan for a red light on the arm of the chair. Then, once they sight the person requiring the assistance, they walk along the isle to take their order.

So, you are distracted by waiting staff walking in and out of the cinema, up and down the isles with drinks and food, discussing the order with people, more discussions as drinks and food are handed around, and these annoying red lights all around.

Seriously, it was noisier and more disruptive than any normal cinema I have been in. I’ve never been back to Gold Class again.

Yet the Guardian say:

Matthew Harrigan, a movie industry analyst with suburban Denver-based Janco Partners Inc., said he’s doubtful that VIP seating will take off even though it’s worked in Britain. “Americans are too unruly for that,” said Harrigan, laughing.

Yeah? You should try in the UK mate.

So what do I want in the cinema? Well, personally I’d like more space between seats, a ban on food and drink in the cinema, back to the days of a member of staff standing at the entrance and able to eject someone should the need arise, better quality sound and sound separation, and more soundproofing between cinemas.

One of my local cinemas, the Dominion, has it spot on. You have leather armchairs and foot stools, not seats. That’s comfort. Now ban the sweets and drinks, upgrade and setup the sound systems properly and I’d gladly pay extra money for that.

What do you want in your cinema? Are you happy with the standard seats? Want waiter service? Like rustling your food around? Have something fancy already and use it every week? Speak out about what you want instead of what they think you want.

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