It has been announced that Cineplex Entertainment, Canada's largest movie chain, is going to begin a pilot project at their Varsity Cinemas in downtown Toronto. With this new plan, Cineplex is going to begin adding a $2 surcharge to reserved seating in the middle two rows of the cinema. The justification given by Cineplex reps is that it adds more choice for moviegoers, comparing the new tiered pricing to the different levels of airline seats. This announcement continues the growing number of premium options for Cineplex, which includes their Ultra AVX and VIP cinemas.
So, how do I feel about this announcement? I suppose I should just go straight to the negative. It's quite easy for an educated cinephile like myself to look beyond the PR sugarcoating and decipher that this announcement is less about giving audiences a choice and more about finding ways to get them to pay more money, without outright raising the regular ticket price. It is no secret that the movie industry has been taking a hit in attendance in recent years, especially with the rise of digital distribution and video on demand. Not as many people are physically going to the movies these days and the only reason the movie industry stays profitable is that ticket prices have gotten more expensive.
I suppose that it would be only a matter of time before Cineplex thought of incorporating a tiered ticketing system, which would charge different prices depending on where you sit in the theatre. I'm not exactly sure how this plan will work in execution, since Cineplex is assuming that this $2 surcharge is going to the most preferable seats in the theatre. However, how do they know that these seats are the most preferable?
Sure, there are definitely people who prefer the middle two rows and will be quite angry at this announcement. However, some people like sitting near the back and other people (like me) prefer sitting a few rows from the front. Now, if Cineplex were giving a surcharge for the middle seats, then I would have a major issue. However, the way I currently see it, I will probably not even sit in these premium seats, so this pilot project currently doesn't really concern me.
However, it could be seen as a sign of things to come for Cineplex. What's not to say that in a few years we won't see a fully tiered pricing scheme more akin to live theatre? This is most definitely something that may become an issue in the future. However, right now I'll just shrug my shoulders.
The following post originally appeared on Sean's blog, Sean Kelly on Movies.