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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12 thoughts on “Is VIP cinema seating needed?

  1. Sounds like America is a very uncivilised place and we’re catching up fast in the UK. People are the problem. KICKING THE BACK OF MY SEAT all through the film.

    Sound quality sucks everywhere I’ve been to so far. Screen 1 of the Empire Leicester Square used to have THE best quadrophonic/surround sound in london and a screen that impressed the pants of my visiting American cousin (mid 90’s). Well as of last week i can officially declare Empire 1 is dead. I for one shall miss it. An overpriced dump where you can barely make out what’s being said.

    As for the Odeon Leicester square, ever since they introduced the leopard-skin-effect rough canvas backbreaker chairs, I try at all costs to give the place a miss.

    GIVE ME VIP!!!!!!!! I WILL PAY!!!!

    21st century sound quality so I can get what i paid for, good quality and size of screen, seats far enough apart so no one can kick the back of mine(!!!!!!), seats designed for humans not wannabe hunchbacks with back pain, intermissions for films over 2 hours long (you get one after 45 minutes at live theatre), good manners as a condition of entry (takes care of all the cave dwellers’ funny little habits),


  2. I think VIP seating would be a great thing. I would pay a coule extra bucks to ensure there are no crying kids, or other disractions.

    Of course I would hate to see what popcorn costs at a theater like this.

  3. Exactly. I only go to rated R movies now (and it sucks that all these movie companies try to get most of their movies released as PG-13) because it’s no fun in the theaters with all the 16 year olds yelling and yapping on cell phones, and going nuts. I sure was never like that when i was 16, but these days…yadda yadda… back in my day…we showed respect… and all that. But it’s true, If it’s not rated R, i’m not going unless i can go in the middle of a weekday when they are all ( or most of em anyway ) in school. So i’d definately pay more for better seats, or even a VIP Theatre!

    And about the baby thing, lol, what pisses me off even more is when i forked out the cash, it’s rated R, and then some moron brings his 1 and 5 year olds. yeah, that’s fun. there goes a bullet to the head, while the 5 year old watches it all …

  4. I went to see Sin City last night only to be frustrated by a couple bringing their six year old kid into this sexual and violent film. I love the movie, but hated the people I was stuck with in the theatre.

    I have always been a proponent of the idea of membership theatres. Anything where you have to abide by strict guildine to watch it. Like no talking, no cell phones, no children at rated R films, and NEVER any babies. Just friggen NEVER.

    I wish we had some in Houston, I don’t know of any off hand, but if they did I’d go to it. I just hate having idiots in the theatre with me.

    I wouldn’t pay double the ticket price, but I would pay a small fee for a yearly membership or add $2 onto the ticketprice or something reasonable just to assure a decent movie watching experience.

  5. As soon as I turn 18 (end of this year) I’m going to one of these –
    $30 Aus including complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks and popcorn isn’t bad – in fact it’s probably cheaper than going to the usual movies (an adult ticket is around $15AU) and buying the overcharged food and drinks from the cinemas.

  6. There are VIP theatres in Toronto (ontario, Canada). The Varsity Cinemas (Bay & Bloor) have several smaller cinemas with a premium price…Don’t know if a dollar here or there keeps the riff-raff (i.e. annoying customers) out or not though…

  7. Simone: I thinkt eh reason you pay less before 5pm and during the week is that is when it is slow at the theater and they charge less to get you to go in the “off Peak” hours. Same as buying swim suits in the fall….less demand….lower price?

  8. Here is my take: Most of the people I hate sitting next to in the Cinema’s are: Kids(4 to 18)….old women how talk to each other REAL LOUD,jerk off’s that make out with the Hoe of the week,ect…..most of them won’t pay more to sit in the expensive seating area….I will….for the experience and to get away from them. Where live(Pittsburgh,pa)… is $3.50 more to sit in BIG Leather chairs with the upper view……at least 7 feet up and 10 feet away from the lower price seats…with waiters who bring stuff to you! On top of that….you get $2.00 back to use at the concession stand….all that for $1.50 more…..seems like a good idea to me.

  9. If I can sit in peace without obnoxious people talking behind me I will pay double the price. The inconsiderate people are the main reason that I wait for DVD instead of going to movie theaters.

  10. Ah…the joys of going to the cinema. Right timing for a topic Rich, I might be going out and catch some films today! *winks*

    Where I live in the northeast side of London I have like 4 different cinema choices- UGC in West India Quay, Odeon in Holloway or Leicester Square, Vue in Islington and Cineworld in Woodgreen. Having tried all 4, I am only left with 2 of the best basing it on picture and sound quality, movie varieties, spacious seating and convenience of travel. And that will be UGC where I am an unlimited card holder and Vue. No waiters please, I can take of myself thank you very much. What I cant get my head around is why do you have to pay a different price if you watch it after 5 pm or if you see it on a weekend, how is the ticket price justified o be more expensive?

    It must be in Cineworld where they actually have the spacious chairs and for the higher ticket price, you also get the extra perks, popcorn, drink and sweets, so no luck about having no food or drink there Rich, stay away from Cineworld.

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