By Rodrigo Villegas
AMC Theatre—America’s largest movie chain—announced its new Sightline initiative on Monday. The initiative reworks ticket pricing, where the cost of a ticket varies depending on where an individual chooses to sit, similar to entertainment venues.
Seats will be divided into three distinct categories: Value Sightline, Preferred Sightline, and Standard Sightline. Value Sightline seats, the least costly, include front-row seats. Preferred Sightline seats, the most costly, include middle seats. Lastly, Standard Sightline seats include the remaining seats and will be valued at the usual cost of a ticket.
However, Sightline initiative offers members of AMC Stubs-A-List—the highest tier of AMC’s reward program—the opportunity to purchase Preferred Sightline seats at standard ticket prices.
The strategy aims to improve AMC’s financial performance. AMC lost billions of dollars in revenue since the start of the pandemic in 2020 because of streaming services gaining popularity and patron’s unease with indoor spaces.
The Senior Box Office Analyst at the entertainment data company Exhibitor Relations, Jeff Bock, reported to the Guardian: “Movie theaters are only now getting back to full swing after the pandemic and now the largest theater chain in the world wants to institute a class system in cinemas.” He adds, “It’s not a good look right now, or ever.”
I share the same sentiment. My initial impressions lead me to believe this decision will not produce the results AMC Theatres hopes to achieve.
I can imagine the pricing system producing more revenue on opening weekends for blockbuster movies or sequels to popular franchises. Otherwise, the strategy disincentivizes people from going to a movie theater.
The last time I visited a movie theater was last Spring, around April—nearly a year ago. Prior to that, I went around October of 2021. There was a six-month gap between visits.
And I have found myself visiting the movie theater less frequently as time passes. Part of the blame falls on the pandemic, which compelled me to avoid crowded indoor spaces. However, price and convenience play a greater role.
Both prices, and the thought of leaving my home, do not entice me to go to a movie theater. Why pay an exorbitant price for a ticket and snacks when I can stream a movie on Netflix, Disney+, or another streaming service and heat up a bag of popcorn at home? After all, my home always provides the best seat in the house: my bed!
I did exactly that in my recent watching of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (I somehow managed to dodge spoilers for three months!) and I cannot say I missed the movie theater experience.
Rather, I felt much more content staying home, not worrying about arriving on time or missing a scene to use the restroom, nor covertly damning the people behind me for talking during the movie.
Furthermore, the new system could potentially introduce a new problem: enforcing rules. People are bound to run into a situation where they arrive at the theater, and another individual takes their Preferred Sightline seat. In this case, how will the situation be resolved?
Apparently, however, the chances of an individual encountering this situation remain low. Barak Orbach, a professor of law and business at the University of Arizona—informed NPR of the reality of movie theaters in the United States, saying “that the overwhelming majority of shows are more than half empty.”
This does not rule out the problem, however. The opening weekend of a popular movie could still see many patrons, and this issue would arise.
AMC Theatres began the implementation of Sightline initiative in select theaters across the country, and plans to implement the strategy at all locations by the end of the year.