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AMC Movie Chain Will Charge More For Better Seats, But Not For Better Movies

The empty ticket lobby of an AMC movie theater; the letters AMC are spelled out on the wall at the back, and movie posters hang below
An empty ticket area in a closed AMC movie theater in Santa Monica during the pandemic.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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If you want a front-row seat to a Taylor Swift concert (insert Ticketmaster joke here), it will cost more than being in the nosebleed section. The same is true for airlines: First class will set you back much more than coach. On Monday, the nation’s biggest movie theater chain said it is implementing the same kind of ticket pricing.

Tiered Pricing Plan

Called Sightline, the program from the financially strapped AMC Theatres chain will offer three different prices based on seat location. AMC is introducing Sightline this week at some of its theaters in New York, Chicago and Kansas City, and said it will expand the tiered pricing plan nationwide by the end of the year.

The price of a standard seat won’t change, but moviegoers will pay less for sitting very close to the screen, and more for the best locations, usually in the middle of the auditorium.

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Movie attendance has plummeted compared to 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. AMC is saddled with about $10 billion in debt and, like other chains, is laboring to stay solvent.

Charging More For Quality

This isn’t wholly new; some exhibitors, including AMC, have experimented with higher price tickets for Hollywood blockbusters. Last year, AMC charged more for The Batman than it did for some other films, about a $1 price hike.

This so-called dynamic pricing happens in other businesses — a hamburger at McDonald’s costs less than a wagyu steak at a Michelin-starred restaurant, for example.

But at the box office, there’s no differentiation based on quality; the prices are the same for a dog like Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend as they are for Top Gun: Maverick.

Don’t hold your breath, however, or worry that an addiction to good movies will have you forking out more — the practice has not been embraced by the industry.

Let’s see if paying more to avoid sitting with your neck craned up to the screen will catch on.

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