So as a member of the Portland-metro area, I’m a regular at Cinetopia, and agree with their motto; Why would I see a movie in coach? There’s a little more leg room in the seats at Cinetopia than their competitor down the road, plus they can lean back about a half a foot or so, making them less stiff than, like they say, coach.
But the kicker is that the original Cinetopia has Tightwad Tuesdays, a glorious event that happens every week where first-run movies cost only $5 per person in a theater that’s quite a bit above average. Sure, that means it’s a good idea to go a little earlier than normal since it’s half off, but the seats are comfy so that’s not a big deal.
Everything was good.
Well this week, I stopped by on Tuesday as I do often to see the fantastic Kubo and the Two Strings (which if you haven’t seen it, you should. Original stories like this are rare these days it seems) and there was a holdup. We were second in line, a small group got to the counter right before us, and they took FOREVER. How long does it take to buy tickets? Well after a couple of minutes I decided to smeavel my way up and see what the holdup was. And then I heard it,
Ticketeer: “Row M is around the middle.”
Cooliothere: “I don’t know if that’s enough.”
Ticketeer: “How many are in your party, like total?”
Cooliothere:”I don’t know, maybe 12?”
Ticketeer: “How about I just save you the whole row then?”
Cooliothere: “I don’t know when they’ll be here.”
Ticketter: “That’s okay, just have them tell me they’re with you and I’ll give them those seats.” *Pushes buttons on computer* “There you go. Enjoy your movie”
What? I get saving seats, but reserved seats? That might not sound so bad on the surface, I mean, it helps to stop seat-stealing dillweeds from being tough, but it does far, far worse things than that.
It’s slow, it’s awkward, and it’s unclear. They don’t let you see the actual screen with the reserved seats, just a piece of paper that’s “close”, and that’s where the first problem is. The newer Cinetopia adopted the seat reservations at the first of the year, and once you buy your tickets, they turn the screen around and let you touch the screen on the seats you want. Simple. I only go to this one at weird times, so it doesn’t affect me, but it probably does a lot of other people for reason number 2.
The second reason is, when the seat reservations are made. It would be bad enough if I could casually stroll in early in the morning and buy tickets for Episode VIII and pick the prime seats and come back 8 hours later right at showtime and kick out whatever Greedo or Chewbacca thought waiting in line for three hours for the best seats was good enough.
But the truth is much darker.
The above scenario is entirely possible, but it goes a step further by letting people pick their seats when they checkout online. So I could buy tickets months early as soon as they’re available and get whatever seats I want. Right in the middle, just high enough to be center screen. Mine, without having to set foot in the theater.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that it makes a separate class of buyers, and prioritizes the rich and people with predictable schedules. I’m one of those people always out for a deal. At Costco (get a Costco card, seriously) I can get these tickets for like half off the normal price, good for all showings of any movie. They’re like $9-$10 but they’re for the beast-mode leather chairs with the footrests in the no kids allowed skybox section. So yeah, I’ll pay more for that for the movies I really want to see, which is one, maybe two per year.
Well, those “passes” don’t work online.
The online tickets are crazy expensive. They’re like the sticker price of movie tickets. Never pay sticker price. Not only are the expensive to start, they’re done through Fandango, who’s nice enough to add in a convenience fee on top of the already high prices. So the only people who can really take advantage of this are people who pay $80 for dinner and wine in the theater on top of their tickets, and/or people with a reliable schedule, not the ones who can be called in whenever or have to cover shifts.
The whole thing caters to Scrooge McDuck and his fogeys, and I don’t like it one bit. But, I get it. It’s an incentive to pay the higher prices. Well played, reserved seating.