Looking for ways to get people out of the home theater and back into the movie theater, AMC Entertainment plans on spending approximately $600 million this year to transition theaters from standard 44-inch theater seats to 60-inch wide recliners within more than 35 percent of all auditoriums in AMC locations. Detailed by the Wall Street Journal, the move to the plush seating has triggered in increase in attendance by nearly 80 percent. While total seating capacity in each renovated theater is reduced up to 70 percent, AMC will raise ticket prices by $1 to $2 a year from now to make up the difference.
Costing approximately $350,000 to $500,000 per theater, the upgraded seats are very similar to recliners manufactured by La-Z-Boy. The lower portion of the seat pops up to elevate the feet and the back portion can be angled backwards for more comfort. The seats have built-in cupholders in order to store a drink or snacks and the middle divider between two seats can be lifted up for couples. Interestingly, moviegoers can also reserve specific seats in the theater when purchasing the tickets, thus eliminating the need to arrive early to find the best seat in the theater.
This is just one of the upgrades that theater chains have attempted to install in order to bring more consumers into the cinema. Beyond upgrading old film projectors to digital format, many chains are offering an expanded menu at the concession stand, in-house bars for alcoholic drinks and an increased number of 3D showings. It’s likely that AMC will be upgrading the lobbies and restroom facilities as well over the next few years.
Assuming the upgrade to comfy seats brings more people into theaters, this shift may put AMC in a better position to negotiate with movie studios. If AMC is bringing in a higher level of revenue per customer than other chains, the company can negotiate for a more substantial revenue split with each studio. Regal Entertainment is also following AMC’s lead with new seating, but will be moving at a slower pace with upgrades over the next twelve months.