On Monday, AMC Theaters announced its new tiered pricing structure for movie seats. The middle block of seats in the theater will now be considered a “Preferred” zone and be priced slightly higher than standard seating elsewhere, while front-row seats will come at a slight discount. Although it’s currently just being tested at select major markets for screenings after 4 p.m., the new pricing will roll out at all AMC locations by the end of this year.
CivicScience wanted to gauge how popular this tiered pricing system will prove to be with moviegoers. According to the latest data, just one-third of U.S. adults who go to the movies are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to pay extra for a preferred seat at the movies – with 11% claiming to be ‘very likely.’ A significant majority (67%) are not interested at all. When it comes to baseline approval of the change, two-thirds of U.S. adults also disapprove of the new tiered pricing.
Dating back to 2021, CivicScience has been tracking where Americans prefer to watch new movies, after the pandemic drastically altered the landscape with day-and-date releases to theaters and streaming. The current preferences largely mirror 2022’s numbers, with 24% of U.S. adults polled preferring theaters and 40% opting for streaming. Even after a resurgent box office on the back of “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” two event pictures that brought out infrequent moviegoers last year, the data may have settled into a post-pandemic new normal.
AMC’s new pricing format is playing significantly better to moviegoers who prefer seeing new releases in theaters – no surprise there – exceeding all movie fans’ rate to say they’re ‘very likely’ to pay for a preferred seat. A lower share of theater fans than the Gen Pop have no interest at all in the prime seats. Even consumers who prefer streaming and those with no strong preference still express some degree of interest (over one-quarter) in the most expensive seats. So AMC might be able to capitalize on this minority, but it’s still banking on a relatively small share of movie fans.
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