AMC abandons plan to charge more for the best movie theater seats

Moviegoers sit in red seats at an AMC theater in 2021.
AMC tested the idea and found that people didn’t want to pay more for the best view or take less desirable seats at a discount. Above, moviegoers at an AMC theater in Monterey Park in 2021.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. is dropping a plan to charge more for the best theater seats after moviegoers showed little interest during a test.

The world’s largest cinema chain, which said in February that it would expand its tiered pricing structure to theaters in the U.S. and Canada, announced in a statement Thursday that it’s moving away from the initiative called Sightline.

The test didn’t deliver the hoped-for results. Some people shied away from the more expensive seats, and the company saw little or no increase in purchases of tickets for front-row seats despite lower prices. The trial suggested that, unlike concert tickets or sporting events, movie fans aren’t willing to pay up for the best view or take less desirable seats for less.


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Instead, in select U.S. locations this year, AMC will try out a new type of spacious front row seat that reclines.

With Sightline, AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron was trying to break with industry convention as the industry struggled to return to pre-pandemic sales levels. Most theaters charge the same price for every seat at a screening, and none of AMC’s competitors matched its efforts, the company said.

Under the plan, the company charged more for mid-aisle seats in the center of the theater and less for undesirable spots, such as seats in the front row. The initiative applied only to movie screenings after 4 p.m.

Aron has taken a variety of steps to prop up AMC after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the company to the brink of financial ruin. He’s raised additional funds, engaged retail investors on social media and offered non-fungible tokens.

Shares of AMC slipped 4 cents Thursday to close at $4.33 per share. The stock is up 6.4% this year so far.

The industry’s recovery from the pandemic has been complicated by sluggish box office results from a number of big-budget releases including “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” As a result, Bloomberg Intelligence analysts downgraded their predictions for the North American theater industry’s revenue to about $9 billion this year. Before the pandemic, the box office regularly topped $11 billion annually.