Some middle seats at AMC movie theaters will be more expensive than others as part of the company’s new ticket-pricing strategy, announced this week.
AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest cinema chain, said in a news release on Monday that this new pricing system, known as Sightline at AMC, would be in place at all of its United States theaters by the end of the year.
The seats in the front row of the theater will be the least expensive and seats in the middle of the theater will be the most expensive, the company said. However, new prices will not affect showings before 4 p.m. or tickets sold at a special discount on Tuesdays, AMC said.
AMC’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Eliot Hamlisch, said in the news release that the tiered system “more closely aligns” with the reserved seats and pricing models of other types of ticketed events, such as sporting events and concerts.
Mr. Hamlisch said that the change would give people “more control over their experience.”
Critics of the new system, including the actor Elijah Wood, have said it would give wealthy people an unfair advantage.
“The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all, and this new initiative by @AMCTheatres would essentially penalize people for lower income and reward for higher income,” Mr. Wood wrote on Twitter.
Under the new system, the most common seats available, the Standard Sightline tickets, would be priced as traditional movie tickets, AMC said.
If you’re willing to crane your neck to see the screen, you’ll be able to pay less to sit in the “Value Sightline” seats in the front row. Some accessible seating for people with disabilities will also be priced in the value tier. To access the value tier prices, people must register with the AMC loyalty program, which includes one free membership tier.
The seats in the middle of the theater will become “Preferred Sightline” tickets. The extra cost of these tickets will be waived for members of AMC’s top-tier loyalty program, A-List.
A map outlining seating options will be available when buying tickets online, through the company’s app and at the box office, the company said in its announcement.
AMC did not specify what the price differences would be for each ticket or whether prices would be consistent across cities and films.
In New York City, the price differences were about to take effect at some locations later this week. At AMC’s 34th Street location in Manhattan, tickets were listed under the new pricing system for Friday’s showings of films, including “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” and a 25th anniversary screening of “Titanic.”
For the 6:45 p.m. showing of “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” the front row seats, a space for a person in a wheelchair and a seat for the companion of someone in a wheelchair were described as “Value Sightline” seats and colored blue on the seating map.
A key for the map explained that the value tickets were $2 off and that the preferred seats were $1 extra. Those were the five middle seats in each of the four back rows of the theater with gold-colored icons. Discounts for children and older moviegoers remain in effect.
The “Standard Sightline” tickets for this showing included the two to three seats on either side of the preferred seats, the second-row seats and the six other seats made available for people in wheelchairs and their companions.
Movie theaters have been experimenting with new tactics to boost ticket sales in response to two decades of weakening attendance, shutdowns during the first years of the coronavirus pandemic and the widening availability of digital streaming of first-run movies.
In September, Cineworld, the London-based company that operates Regal Cinemas in the United States, filed for bankruptcy.
Cineworld is the second-largest theater chain in the world behind AMC, and the company’s chief executive, Mooky Greidinger, said in the bankruptcy filing that “the pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for our business.”
AMC said that by the end of the year, its new pricing system would be in place at all of the company’s theaters in the United States. AMC has about 950 theaters and 10,500 screens worldwide.