We had no idea how polarizing the idea of reserved seating was until we tried it. Our first model incorporated a Southwest Airlines-inspired system of boarding-pass style numbers. The idea was that our patrons could make themselves comfortable and not have to jockey for position. On the whole though, most people still ended up arriving just as early and the lobby became chaotic - not to mention loud - with the constant announcements and multiple lines forming. We knew it wasn't quite there yet, and many of you felt the same way, so we went back to the drawing board.
Our second model, inspired by several suggestions from our customers, was designed to serve the folks who did not want to have to spend a quarter of their date night waiting in the lobby, or worse, in a line that extends out the door. We figured a modest upcharge would be worth it to those folks. But the process seemed undemocratic to many, and there were ugly references to the "1%" from patrons who filed in past the now-familiar "reserved" signs. This was a body blow to us. Our intention of helpfulness had sunk into a quicksand-like morass of suspicion about who we were now that we were growing. It sucked.
With this much vocal discontent for our first two plans, why on earth are we going back for more?
Because for all the people who raise their voices against this idea of reserved seats, there are many more who suffer in silence as they stand in a cattle pen of tensabarriers in our lobby, or worse, out on the hot sidewalk.
We feel like we've damn near perfected the movie experience, and the immediate pre-movie experience, but we are still asking our guests to wait and wait and wait, when they could be doing something better with their time. It's a very real concern for those of us who are very busy, and how many of us are not super busy nowadays? If you could just show up and know that you have a seat of your choosing, it would make the whole experience that much more fun.
So, what we’re doing here is throwing out all the stuff our customers tell us they hate about reserved seating - the upcharge, the preferential treatment - and keeping what people tell us they love about it - the convenience and time-saving.
As of Monday July 30, 2012 at the Village only, all seating will be reserved. You can begin buying reserved tickets online by end of day Monday July 23, 2012. Again, this test is currently slated for our Village location only. You will choose your own seats at the point of purchase, and there will not be an upcharge.
In this way we feel that we have the right balance, the best of both worlds, an antless picnic. It's driven by the same motivation that compels us to turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars in preshow ad revenue every year, so that you won't have to watch soft drink commercials when you come to our theater. It's driven by the same spirit as our 'no talking' policy and our technical standards. It’s driven by respect.
No more bracing yourself for multiple lines, no more elbowing for position. Just breeze right in and take your seat. Of course you will still want to arrive early enough to watch the specially curated preshow and place your food and drink order while the lights are up. For those folks who arrive after the lights have dimmed, we will have a server stationed inside the theater vestibule to take their orders before they enter the auditorium. That will eliminate any needless distraction to the people nearby.
It's an honor and a privilege to hear from so many of you how much you like what we do. It's taken us a little time to figure this part of the equation out but we hope that it helps make the whole experience that much more fun for all of you. We are constantly motivated by our own wish to provide an experience that's just right and we think this is a big step in that direction.
We may need to make a few more little modifications to it as we go, but please don't hesitate to let us know what you think of the process.