In February, AMC Theaters announced it would soon begin demanding higher ticket prices for better seats, drawing controversy and apathy from audiences. For a company that so narrowly escaped defaulting on its debt, AMC somehow managed to shock once more with both overconfidence and ignorance.
Going to the movies has not been the same since the pandemic. Though we treat them like a two-hour (really 3 1/2 hour now) vacations, going to the theater can be a demanding experience. How often can we still ignore the rest of the moving world, the light of day and of course, checking our phones?
The streaming industry shares that last issue. Theaters guilt trip you into putting your phone away right before the movie starts. You don’t get the chance to even think about checking before your attention plunges into the opening shot. Streaming struggles from being inside the home.
The convenience of having some of the best cinema all within your living room is good — too good. Whether watching film or television from the comfort of our couch, we forget that the media on-screen was designed for its medium.
Our phones are designed for keeping our attention fixed on them. If I’m not being told that my phone has to go away, I’ll be using it while watching. Whatever I sat down intending to watch blurs into background noise or just another part of the TikTok cacophony of Family Guy, Subway Surfers and a rolling ball game that is advertised everywhere but never actually played.
Watching in theaters is just a better experience. Sound designers and engineers carefully construct the
perfect balance to bring the picture’s sound to life with theater speakers. Theater employees protect society from having to face the horrors left behind after showings.
Without getting too close to the Nicole Kidman AMC monologue, going to the movies really is a special experience. Not only serving as a staple of America’s recreational culture, movies are the closest thing we have to recreating life (virtual reality games don’t count until we can stop worrying about melting our eyes).
The familiarity of the process rewards repetition. The better the experience, the more likely you are to return — even if the movie isn’t good but the experience as a whole is. Even if it’s just worth the time or the toll on your wallet, you’ll most likely come back anyway for a better movie next time.
The cost continues to rise though. At the nearest theater to campus, River Park Square AMC, almost everything from the concession stand will cost about as much as your ticket. The cheapest popcorn you can buy is $9.29 before tax. I’d rather bring my own snack instead.
Netflix is just as guilty. Along with steady price hikes over the past few years, Netflix recently schemed a means of ending account sharing across households. Somehow managing to make both the cost and the experience worse, Netlfix has set an unfortunate precedent much akin to AMC.
Ultimately, I’m not going to spend $15 per month alone to watch the depleting amalgam of loose IP’s that have managed to fall into Netflix’s cash-seeking hands. At the same time, I’m not going to pay for a better seat.
As someone who heads to the theater fairly often, I have still not seen a theater full since the pandemic. Though I’ll now be going to the movies less, I’ll continue to make it for the movies I find worth seeing. There’s just no substitute.