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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 15, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Reserved seats at movies — yes or no?

(I was going to write something this morning about Kiernan Shipka, who plays the luckless Sally Draper on “Mad Men,” being cast as Cathy in the Lifetime movie “Flowers in the Attic” — yes, this is true, and maybe you read that book in high school like I did, so you know why my eyebrows just went up to the ceiling — but it just makes me want to lie down, so I won’t.)

So, on to another topic: reserved seats at the movies. Over on Slate earlier this week, Mark Vanhoenacker wondered whether it would improve the American moviegoing experience if we could reserve our seats in advance. That way, we wouldn’t have to come extra-early and sit through endless commercials; we could view the screen from our preferred angle; we would not need to worry about not being able sit next to our companion(s).  That’s the pro argument; con is that first-come-first-served open seating is more democratic, open seating allows us to avoid those we don’t want to sit behind (the texters, the chatters, the tall); open seating is easier for the theaters and thus keeps costs down.

Anyone been to the Sundance Cinemas yet? Seats there are reserved; I haven’t had a chance to see a movie there yet, and am curious how customers are responding to the concept of picking a movie seat in advance. Currently, as Vanhoenacker notes, reserved seating in U.S. moviehouses is pretty much restricted to the more upscale chains; meaning, it’s a perk you pay more for. (It’s more common overseas; I remember, a few years back, going to a movie in a near-empty London multiplex and being charmed by the process of choosing my seat. There were ushers, too.) Me, I like to sit on the aisle, at least halfway back, and have trained myself to show up early so I can sit where I want. Would I pay extra to get that time back and claim my seat at the last minute? I’m thinking I would — a dollar or two, anyway. Would you?

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