On Evolving Movie Theatre Atmospheres

I went to my local Cineplex today to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle with my family this afternoon and was surprised to see how much the theatre had changed over the past year.

With services like Netflix and video-on-demand streaming increasing, as well as movie ticket prices, traditional movie theatres have faced a decline in attendance. In response, I’ve seen a number of theatres introduce more comfortable seating via large reclining chairs. Although these take up more space, meaning less seats per theatre, they are admittedly quite comfortable.

The most surprising thing about today’s visit was having assigned seats with our tickets. This is an interesting concept, and I understand some of the logic behind the idea, but I can’t say I’m a fan of it. Based off of today’s visit, we were unable to get four seats together, so had to sit two and two on the ends of different rows. This wasn’t a big deal, but it was surprising that these were our only options considering over half the seats in the theatre were empty for the duration of the film.

While one has assigned seating for events like concerts, sports games and theatre performances, going to the movies isn’t (for now) the same type of event – it doesn’t require extensive planning ahead of time, is casual and oftentimes impromptu.

Knowing you have a seat reserved you will likely make it more tempting to show up later if you want to avoid the previews because there won’t be any urgency to save a seat – which could mean more disruptions if you arrive after the movie has begun.

This process may also disadvantage those who don’t or prefer not to complete their transactions online, because purchasing at the theatre on the day of the film means less selection of seating (and also less people selling tickets). Furthermore, this process saves Cineplex money since they don’t need to print out tickets on their own paper or with their own ink, in addition to charging a convenience cost. I’m curious if they may eventually introduce different priced seats within the same viewing room (think first class experience on an airplane with comfier seats, special treatment…).

I’ve also noticed an expansion in food and beverages available from a wider selection of brands, as well as stands of movie-related merchandise set up near the concession stand in the same fashion sports apparel or concert merchandise would be.

Cineplex also announced last year that they would be expanding their Rec Room complexes across Canada into smaller cities to include eateries, live entertainment and games, rebranding themselves as an entertainment company rather than a movie company according to CEO Ellis Jacob. Additionally, Cineplex is seeking to expand 4DX experiences which add motion and sensory effects.

As technology advances, streaming services develop and costs increase, the movie theatre begins to evolve beyond a one-stop-shop in a similar fashion to how we’ve seen grocery stores introduce home, pharmacy, and personal products, slowly altering the traditional movie-going experience in order to stay competitive in the market.

 

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