You may like going to the movie theater, but this week's news is adding another headache — at least for AMC theaters. The chain's new Sightlines at AMC program, announced yesterday (Feb. 6), is going to make theater-going even more complicated — all while practically demanding you sign up for another monthly membership.
AMC Theatres announced the changes in a press release, which stated that this program has already launched in "select markets" and will continuing expanding throughout the year. Sightlines at AMC breaks tickets into three categories, and will basically mean that some seats aren't going to be available to even consider unless you pay a premium or sign up for a paid membership. It's all enough to make one think about relying on the best streaming devices rather than their local multiplex.
This change makes movie-going more like going to a concert, an experience that the likes of Ticketmaster, StubHub and SeatGeek have already mangled enough in recent history. Now, the best seats will cost extra. Here's a breakdown of the three tiers of tickets:
AMC Sightlines pricing explained
Standard Sightline: most of the seats in an auditorium, pricing will not change, as AMC states they will be available "for the traditional cost of a ticket."
Value Sightline: willing to have a sore neck? Well, the front-row seats of your theater will now be cheaper. You will need to be an AMC Insider or above member of the Stubs program to get these seats. This classification is also applied to ADA seats — those designed for persons in wheelchairs.
Preferred Sightline: seats "typically in the middle of the auditorium" will cost more, but AMC Stubs A-List members won't have to pay the additional price. They're already paying (at least) $19.95 per month (plus tax) for A-List membership.
That membership includes multiple tickets per month, and you can wind up saving money if you go often enough.
How to avoid AMC Sightlines pricing
If all of this sounds like too much for you, we recommend going on off-hours. AMC notes that "Sightline at AMC is applied to all showtimes that begin after 4 p.m. at participating locations and is not applicable on Discount Tuesdays."
Yes, this can easily be seen as AMC trying to funnel traffic into less-popular days. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas have also introduced a discounted ticketing for Tuesdays, with tickets down to $9 in New York City.
Analysis: Why this stinks
As AMC details, theaters "will provide a detailed seat map that clearly outlines each seating option during the ticket purchase process." This means that unless you're a member, which is clearly the goal, the first map of available seats you see might make you feel like you're trying to find seats at a disadvantage.
Of course, those willing to spend more will get the option for whatever seat they want, but when movie tickets cost as much as $20 already (which isn't far from the pricing you get for recent-releases once they hit digital), this is a step too far.
Those who are already bought in, the AMC Stubs A-List members among us, will see nothing different. AMC clearly is trying to convert as many current customers to that plan as possible, which starts at $19.95 per month. AMC is probably also hoping the same thing that the likes of Netflix and the rest do: that you forget you're being charged. A friend of mine routinely realizes he's paying for services he didn't remember.
If you've had the displeasure of shopping for concert or sporting event seats online these days, all of this is far too familiar. The good seats cost a heck of a lot more, and the cheapest seats would ruin the experience. And for the alternative to be a monthly recurring fee (which includes multiple tickets per month) just feels like AMC is learning the wrong lessons from the best streaming services.
This might be what AMC needs, but it could easily push users away and into the arms of other theaters. Unfortunately for consumers, AMC's picked a perfect time to play hardball, as competitor Regal shuttered 39 U.S. theaters as it declared bankruptcy in January 2023.