AMC Theaters charges for good seats: less airlines, more gym memberships

The real reason AMC is charging an extra $2 for a theater seat: It might be the hook that keeps audiences paying $25 a month for AMC Stubs A-List.

AMC Theaters appears to have decided to take a page from United Airlines, where AMC CEO Adam Aron was once head of marketing: by launching the Sightline program, they charge a small premium to reserve the best seats in the house at the world’s largest theater . chain makes money from what users once got for free. What’s actually happening is a lot more like LA Fitness: Create a revenue stream by incentivizing users to sign up for a membership they’ll use less than they think.

Dynamic pricing is already part of moviegoing: in the United States, it is used for matinees, active military members, and people under 12 or over 60. Anyone who has seen “Avatar: The Way of Water” in IMAX has proven that they are willing to spend more for the best viewing experience. Premium-priced seats have been a feature of international markets for years. And this past weekend, major theater chains experimented with offering “80 for Brady” tickets at matinee prices all weekend long.

On Monday, however, people called out AMC for a theatrical release.more complicated and unpleasant,” to “antagonizing and piercing” patrons and said: “AMC hates you.” AMC faced similar outrage a year ago when people discovered that the world’s largest theater chain was dealing with higher prices for “The Batman.”

Speaking to distribution and exhibition space analysts and industry experts, it’s clear that AMC’s Sightline program isn’t intended to add value like first-class tickets (bigger seats, free drinks) or even “premium economy” (legroom, earlier access). better chances to store overhead). Sightline doesn’t give discounts, plush armchair beds, and doesn’t let you avoid the large-format surcharge: it just raises the prices. already tends to reserve seats early for the latest blockbuster.

Sightline adds to the appeal of AMC’s Stubs and A-List loyalty programs. You can waive these good seat rates if you’re an AMC Stubs A-List member (with waived online booking fees, concession upgrades, and $19.95-$24.95 monthly reward points) or unlock the discounted “Value Sightline” service. For AMC Insider members (it’s free). Back pre-pandemic 2019AMC quickly amassed over 900,000 A-List subscribers and even had 50 million people take advantage of free stubs.

“There are a lot of smart ways to optimize ticket prices that not only increase theater revenue, but also increase attendance with reduced ticket prices,” Alicia Reese, vice president of equity research at Wedbush, told IndieWire. “Adam Aron is a longtime advocate of loyalty programs and tiered seating, having come from the airline industry. I agree that AMC is trying to increase customer retention and direct communication with moviegoers, and the best way to do that is to promote AMC’s loyalty program and provide great benefits to its members. Sightline pricing achieves this goal by encouraging moviegoers to become Stubs members.”

While Film Twitter didn’t like it, Wall Street did. AMC shares closed at $6.80 on Monday, with an increase of 11.8 percent, and AMC’s preferred shares, or APE shares, also closed at $3.16, up 5.5 percent. Reese felt the Sightline feature would be a good plus for many of AMC’s investor base, many of whom are Stubs members, and it almost certainly sent AMC shares higher on Monday.

The added fees, which begin Feb. 1, are an extra $1 to $2 per ticket, depending on the theater. If you’re at Lincoln Center in New York, it’s $2; some places in Kansas City it’s a buck. The new pricing levels will apply year-round across the country, but will only apply to AMC locations where seats are reserved. (Most of AMC’s 10,500 screens across the country don’t have these.) How AMC can enforce Sightlines policy for those who book cheaper seats and try to move to a better open space is a question for the future (reserved sections? different captions) ? colored seats?).

AMC had no comment.

Nicole Kidman in an AMC Theaters commercial

Nicole Kidman for AMC Theaters

Screenshot: AMC

One exhibitor who spoke to IndieWire said Sightline appeared to be short-term thinking to help grow subscribers without doing anything else to boost business. An independent distributor lamented that it’s a “fragile moment” to squeeze more money from consumers when audiences are finally showing signs of returning to theaters for anything other than “Top Gun: Maverick.”

But one studio distributor described Sightline’s front-row discount as a “non-entity”: seats that theater managers won’t sell if they can avoid the headache of customers complaining later about the terrible view. In connection with the opening weekend blockbusters in IMAX theaters – which was designed for audiences who want the best seats – the studio distributor said that, based on their own data, most of the screenings are already dominated by A-List members.

“It’s so much about PR: Do the customers who go to these theaters feel like they’re being ripped off … or are they willing to pay a premium to sit in the best seats?” the distributor posed. “The only thing AMC has to worry about is whether their competitors will use it against you?”

Or maybe they decide it’s a bandwagon. The studios share the Sightline fees, and while an A-List member gets three “free” tickets a month, the studio gets the same flat rate as if it were full price. For AMC, a loyalty program is a bit like a gym membership: you earn more money if you don’t use it to the full.

According to the indie distributor, AMC is betting that the furor will wear off and that, like everything else in cinema, people will get used to it: “If people don’t riot over it, and I think there’s a 50-50 chance it will. by the end of the week, everyone will be jumping where they can.”

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