AMC is dropping plans to charge more for movie seats depending on its location. But higher prices for center-center seats at theaters where AMC is testing the concept will still apply this weekend, when Barbie and Oppenheimer are expected to draw big crowds.
AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater chain, said on Thursday it would move away from a controversial initiative called Sightline, in which seats at evening shows have three price tiers, ending the long-held cinematic custom of charging the same amount for any seat in a theater. (Discounts of $1 to $2 were offered for the front row for neck lifts, increases of $1 to $2 were charged for the middle and the status quo remained for the rest.)
The concept was released in March in theaters in New York, Illinois and Kansas to outcry from some moviegoers. AMC has always described it as a test.
An AMC spokesperson said the trial will end sometime in August. But the company plans to launch a new experience that includes front-row seats, which are often unsold. Later this year, AMC said it would pull the traditional front row seats and replace them with “large, comfortable lounge-style seating areas that allow guests to lounge all the way around.”
AMC and other theater chains, after steadily raising prices at their franchise stands, began to focus more on seating in order to grow revenue. Increasingly, for example, multiplexes are pushing customers toward premium-priced tickets for shows that feature extra-large screens or enhanced sound systems.
Adding to the pressure, attendance has yet to recover from the early pandemic, when many theaters closed for months. So far this year, ticket sales are about 20 percent behind the same period in 2019.
AMC said Sightline did not materialize as well as it had hoped. In particular, the company saw “little or no uptick in front row attendance, even with the price cut applied to those seats.” AMC said about three out of four customers who previously sat in the middle middle seats have paid the extra fee to continue to do so. Some of these people have moved to other seats. A small percentage stopped buying tickets at AMC.
Notably, competitors have not followed AMC in repricing seats, making the company less competitive in test markets.
AMC’s plans to discontinue the initiative were reported earlier by Bloomberg News.