Movie theater tickets are far from cheap as it stands today, if you're paying less than $10 for a non-matinee show you're in good shape. But one theater may be looking for a new way increase revenue. AMC Theaters, the largest theater chain in the US, has apparently sent out a survey which floats the question of whether people would be willing to pay more or less money for more or less desirable seats in a movie theater. The implication being that AMC is considering implementing a program that would make seats in the same theater cost different amounts.
The survey was sent out to members of the AMC Stubs loyalty program and the question is vague enough that it's not clear exactly what the plan, assuming there even is a plan at this point, actually is. As Slashfilm points out, it's possible that AMC could try to fill empty seats in the theaters by charging a reduced ticket price for less desirable seats, thus enticing people who don't go to the theater because it's too expensive. That's possible. That's not likely.
The more likely process, of course, is that whatever the base ticket price for a movie in your neck of the woods is, that will become the price of the less desirable seats, while the better seats will go for a premium.
Of course, the fact the question went out on a survey is far from proof that AMC is planning to do such a thing. If the survey results come back with a resounding negative reaction, it may convince the chain that such a process will do more harm than good. Of course, it might also depend on a number of factors. It would seem like such a plan could only be implemented in theaters with reserved seating, otherwise, you'd need to have theaters full of staff to be sure people didn't pay for cheaper seats and then take more expensive ones. Those theaters tend to already have tickets sold at a higher price.
There's also the issue of whether the theater and the audience would agree on what seats are considered better. An individual might be willing to spend a couple extra bucks for seats in a particular section, but if the theater thinks prime seats are located in a place you don't think it's worth it, you're not going to pay.
I have to wonder if premium seat pricing would make those seats unavailable to users of MoviePass. The subscription service can't be used for higher price screenings like 3D movies, and so premium seats might also be out of bounds. AMC has made no secret that the company is not a fan of MoviePass. This could be a way, intentional or not, to reduce the use of the service in AMC theaters.
While box office totals have been steadily rising, the number of actual tickets sold has been going through a slump the last couple of years. This is bad news if you run movie theaters. If you're looking to increase overall revenue at the theater there are two different ways to go about it. Either find a way to bring in more customers or get more money from each of the customers you have. A tiered pricing structure, as mentioned, could technically be used in either way, but getting more from your existing customer base is always the easier way to go.
If the largest theater chain does implement this new price structure, and it's successful, there's a safe bet AMC won't be the only ones doing it before too long.