Ask the Audience – Luxury Seating

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Ask the Audience

Ask the Audience is a monthly feature from Film Journal International and National CineMedia (NCM) that allows you to ask an audience of 5,000 frequent moviegoers, known as the Behind the Screens panel, the pressing questions of our industry.

Curl up on a comfy, cozy leather recliner, grab your favorite snack, and settle in to watch that movie you’ve been dying to see.

Five years ago, that sentence could only be describing a night in your living room with a DVD (or, if you were fancy, Blu-ray) playing on your TV. Now, it describes the experience at many theatres across the country. With the rise of luxury and reserved seating,76% of our panelists agree that the seating upgrades have created a better overall moviegoing experience. To find out more about how seating impacts their moviegoing habits, we asked the audience.

When it comes to opinions about reserved seating, there’s a clear generational divide. 68% of moviegoers aged 18-34 and 71% of those aged 35-54 prefer reserved seating, while only 48% of those over 55 would agree. Additionally, people with annual incomes lower than $30,000 opt for standard seating, while individuals bringing in $100,000 or more a year elected for reserved seating. Of those who miss the days of standard seating, the primary concern was that they were not able to move seats if they didn’t like their choice. For example, one respondent said, “I like the option to change seats if someone too annoying sits near me.” Traditional seating advocates also felt that moviegoers should honor the first come, first served rule.

The age and income divides of reserved seating are echoed for luxury seating. Audiences under 55 or earning more than $100,000 a year are fans of leather recliners and other luxury seating options, whereas those over 55 or making less than $30,000 were more likely to prefer standard seating. People argued that traditional seating was less expensive and allowed for more seating in one auditorium, which creates a larger, more fun audience. Another common thought was that comfy seating made it much more likely to fall asleep during the movie. As one panelist concisely pointed out, “That’s what a couch is for at home.”

When given ideas for seating options in the future, 48% were fans of the idea of seating with a built-in storage area for bags or concessions, 31% were charged up at the thought of seats with USB outlets, and 23% crowded around the suggestion of seating for groups, such as couches instead of individual recliners. With more developments around the corner, it seems that, despite the naysayers, reserved and luxury seating is a good investment for the industry and a way to continue to make a trip to the theatre just as relaxing but much more exciting than the customers’ living rooms.

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To submit a question, email AskTheAudience@ncm.com with your name, company, contact information, and what you would like to ask the Behind the Screens panel.