When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was blown away with the Arclight theater in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. Amazing screens, great picture and sound, no commercials, limited trailers, and something novel to me: assigned seating. You could either show up and select your seats or, the way we roll in a post Year-Two-Thousaaaaand world, on the internet.
And it was good. I could decide to see a movie on say, Thursday, buy tickets for Friday night, show up 5 minutes before the film started and have a good time. It became the only way to see movies for me. No getting to the theater early to stand in line to make sure I got good seats. I could just buy them early. All it took was a little forethought.
In fact it was such a good idea and became so popular in LA that a lot of our theaters are reserved seating. And that’s kind of a bad thing.
I know what you’re thinking – but Robert, I order my seats online and it is indeed awesome! I agree, for the most part, or I did. I’m definitely the kind of guy who thinks ahead about what movie I want to see. I know what’s coming out when and I like to see things on Friday nights, so I often order tickets and see movies opening night.
However, lately, maybe blame it on the economy, I’ve been going to more matinees and hitting up different theaters with lower prices and at a moments notice. The moments notice part is where I’m starting to see that reserved seating is kind of bullshit.
I mean, pretty much everyone has the internet now and can order tickets online, so it’s not like it’s unfair, everyone can do it. But when you’re walking around a mall or cruising past a theater, it is ten times harder to just swing by and catch a movie.
Case in point – I decided to catch a screening of Drive when I was walking through a local shopping center. In this increasingly automated and reserved world, I stepped up to the kiosk and saw that many of the seats were already sold, but there were a couple of good ones left. I tapped them – then the screen kicks me back, having just sold those seats to someone else. Now, because of the automated system, there are only a few single seats in the theater, so me and my guest have been boxed out. Living up to my surname (pronounced fury) I punched the screen in frustration. Oops.
All the people who thought ahead and ordered their tickets online and decided to show up five minutes before the screening beat me out, the guy who was actually standing in the theater thirty minutes before the show was set to begin. There is something wrong about that.
Reserved seating has killed the spontaneous movie going experience. I mean, if you maybe have your phone with you or you’re sitting at home on the computer and you decide to see a movie, you’re probably in good shape. But if you’re cruising around, having a day on the town, your odds of getting a good seat in Los Angeles are pretty shitty.
I’m not sure what the situation is like outside of Los Angeles, so this might be a very localized gripe. The few times I’ve seen movies outside of LA lately it hasn’t been a problem, but I’d guess big cities should be on the look-out for the reserved seating craze to sweep there way soon.
This is definitely not just a first world problem, it’s a big city first world problem, the weakest kind to be upset about – but I’m easily angered.
So what…Why… How… I mean, I like being able to order my tickets and show up at the last minute. That’s definitely cool. But when every option is the same, I feel like I’ve been robbed of the ability to just snag some tickets and pop in and grab good seats. Big releases have tested the support of fans and their willingness to camp out, buy tickets, and wait in line for days – but this can’t really happen in LA anymore, it’s a race to click your mouse button.
I’d be interested in hearing if reserved seating has come to your area and if it has, if you’ve ever run into a problem with. I was happy as nuts with reserved seating for five years, but now that it has spread to all of my local theaters, I’m starting to see the downside. Why must everything going digital? Why is the simple joy of just walking up and buying tickets being sold off early and online? I’ll tell you, I’m still going to buy my tickets online most of the time, but every day I do, I’ll go a little bit past my boiling point.