AMC Reveals Big Plans to Install Recliners in More Movie Theaters
It's time to recline. There's a big story in the Wall Street Journal this week highlighting plans from AMC Entertainment to install more recliner seating in some theaters, while taking out the old crappy style seats in the process of upgrading. The article defends some flack from external criticism about how removing seats just doesn't "make sense" but goes on to explain, with quotes from AMC's CEO Gerry Lopez, that they believe it will be better off in the long run if they put in these recliner seats. Yes, they will eventually charge more for them (but not right at first), and they won't be in NY or LA, but it's still cool to see this happening.
Don't forget that two years ago, Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group bought AMC and while it still operates as its own entity here in the US, they now have a bit more pressure to bring in more customers. And to up the entertainment value, shall we say. Here's where the details come in and they explain the big plans to upgrade some theaters to recliner seats: "The company plans to spend about $600 million over the next five years to 'reseat' 1,800 of its nearly 5,000 screens. The renovations typically cost $350,000 to $500,000 per auditorium, with landlords often shouldering some of the cost." A cute infographic from WSJ:
Oddly, in New York City there aren't a plentiful supply of recliner theaters so I can't say I'm lucky enough to have this experience, and they explain why that's the case. "Busy venues in major markets like Los Angeles or New York don't need cushy seats to attract customers, so it doesn't make sense to cut their capacities." So they won't get the new recliners and won't have their current seats torn out, which, I suppose, makes some sense. But then again, I look at photos like this (below) and think, man, that looks wonderful. I would love to see all movies that way. As long as there are no other distractions… but if these seats existed, I would be at this theater quite often. Wouldn't you? I'm curious to try these elsewhere or just wait for them to get here.
For those concerned about extra costs and how much AMC is planning to make off of customers, well, it won't be that bad. "AMC Chief Executive Gerry Lopez says he is now banking on quality over quantity. AMC plans to wait about a year after upgrading its theaters before raising ticket prices." Okay, but how much? They explain: "AMC typically doesn't change ticket prices in the first year after construction to 'seed' behavior, said Mr. Lopez, but the admission fee goes up in subsequent years. Then, if a regular theater raises ticket prices 25 cents, tickets to a reseated auditorium might go up $1 or $1.25, he said." Now you know. If you go to the movies and sit in these seats, you're "seeding" this, and will be part of the price raise when it inevitably hits. But that's how it works. Can't fight that system, especially when they have such nice seats.
As nice as this all sounds, it doesn't fix every problem with modern movie theaters. And it does seem like a bit of a deflection from these other problems. Our friend Chris @tracksounds jokes about this on twitter:
— Tracksounds (@tracksounds) July 7, 2014
For now it sounds like it will take a few years for the renovations to be completed across the country, but at least they're on the way and AMC is at least trying to make the experience at movie theaters better. If only they would work on other distractions, in addition to making the seats comfortable, then maybe we would all be back at movie theaters more often. For those hoping that recliner seats may eventually come to "busy venues in major markets" near them, they do say: "In a second wave of conversions at better-performing theaters, AMC is planning to install seats that don't recline as far back, so just half of the capacity is lost." Those may end up at some of the more popular venues, so be on the lookout for renovations coming soon.
If you live near any theaters upgraded with recliner/couch seats, let us know if you think they're worth it. Do you go to the movies more if the theater has nicer seats? Do you think it'll make a difference at AMC?