As AMC Town Center 20’s tickets have become increasingly overpriced and unaffordable since May 2008, I’ve had to adapt my movie-going habits to the theater’s costly environment. I was able to handle and find ways around the jump from $8.50 to $10 for weekend evening shows – like sneaking into a second film after the first, feeling that would be the only way to get my money’s worth – but their latest increase crosses the line. Twelve dollars is a ludicrous amount for a regular movie, and I refuse to return to the theater as long as that price is in place.
On Oct. 30, AMC 20 introduced a new reserved seating amenity for every show on all its screens, where instead of waiting in line for a film, you can buy your tickets beforehand and specifically pick what seats you want. Reserved seating has gone over well at the extravagant AMC Mainstreet in the Power and Light District, so the Kansas City-based AMC decided it would be a good addition to Town Center, their theater that sells out most often in KC. While this may sound like an improvement and eliminates waiting in line for a good seat, on the whole it only creates more problems for film-goers, chief among these a higher, outrageous cost.
Both weekend matinee and evening shows jumped $2 in price, meaning the $7.50 afternoon showings now cost $9.50 and the $10 films after 4 p.m. have gone up to a record $12. All weekday tickets are now $6 rather than $5 as well. The increased price is due to the expenses of new, yet unnecessary additions in the theater (all seats and rows are now numbered and lettered, like at a concert), some technological renovations and more needed ushers, who actually help viewers find their seats now.
And if you get into the theater and want to move because you don’t like the loud, raucous teenagers around you, want to be closer or farther from the screen or see some friends you want to sit by, you’ll have to make the trip all the way to guest services and change your seat there. As opposed to simply just getting up and moving, like it’s always been and still should be.
An additional downside resulting from this change stems from the ushers, since they will actually be another source for teens’ dissatisfaction with Town Center theater. Teenagers under the age of 17 sneak into R rated films often at AMC 20 (I’ve sure done it countless times), as it’s always been a pretty easy cineplex for doing so, with few employees ever on guard. Most of the time it’s only been difficult with movies that have a hard R, which I find understandable.
Sadly, now it’s often nearly impossible for teens to sneak into R rated movies at all there, or any film they don’t have a ticket to. This is due to the ushers usually stationed at both sides of the cineplex, waiting to assist ticketholders find their seats. And, whenever possible, AMC places all of their R movies at one side, where viewers suspected to be under 21 are carded upon entering the section.
This regrettably makes it so teenagers have virtually no chance of getting into any R rated films if they’re below 17. I’m sure this will heavily decrease underage viewers sneaking in at the theater, but it’s bound to also have an effect on business, reducing the number of teen patrons to AMC 20 even more; that is, if the price increase wasn’t already enough to scare them off, as the case is with me.
In fact, I’m certain AMC 20 will see a decrease in profit; what worked at Mainstreet won’t pan out at Town Center, seeing as the two theaters cater to different markets. Mainstreet is the premium movie experience in the area, so customers expect to pay a lot. Town Center, on the other hand, is aimed at the more common movie-watcher, who expects reasonable prices for a normal experience.
Which is why I think the only films AMC 20’s reserved seating should apply to are the big blockbusters, whatever movies are playing in the four main theaters and those still in their first two weeks of release. These are the only films it can be difficult to find a good spot in anyways, while all the rest are easy to obtain seats for, hardly ever filling up. Especially during the weekdays, when every theater has ample room, reserved seating would prove to be pointless, so there should be general admission Monday through Thursday.
And anything over $6.50 for a matinee and $8.50 for an evening show on the weekends seems like too much to me, especially since a medium popcorn and drink will set you back another whopping $10.75 at AMC. If I wanted to spend nearly $23 on films, I’d rather buy a $10 movie poster at Vintage Stock, a $6 DVD at Borders and a ticket to an evening show at Cinemark Merriam for $6.
Under the new system, I just can’t afford to continue seeing films at Town Center, and I won’t submit to or accept the ridiculous prices. Now I’ll more frequently go to Ward Parkway and Studio 30 instead, because at those, even though the weekend night price of $10 is still higher than I’d like, I can retain my old habits and sneak into R rated and other movies after my first one. Hell, I’m even going to start driving to Cinemark Merriam, even though its about 20 minutes away from where I live, because they have the fairest prices in town. At only $4 for a matinee and $6 for an evening show (every single day of the week might I add), the extra time and gas it takes to get there is nothing compared to the money saved on tickets.
It’s a shame Town Center did this, because AMC 20 was my regular theater, and I’ve always really enjoyed its friendly, hospitable atmosphere, close location and strong selection of films. Now I don’t have much reason to hang out at Town Center plaza either, since the theater was always my main destination. Without a movie to see, I’d only be walking around the area in circles, never with anywhere to go.
AMC says they’re trying to make seeing a film at Town Center more of an experience with the reserved seating, but the only difference in experience I’ve noticed is that now it’s a bad one.
I’m sure other moviewatchers have recognized this too, and if they react similarly to me, AMC 20 will adjust the system and prices to more adequately fit viewers’ needs. Although if customers just stand by and fail to reject the system, it will expand across the nation.
So until AMC Town Center 20 makes another in-depth evaluation of their prices (which very well may not happen until after this holiday season), and hopefully realizes and amends the flaws in their new business plan, I urge all my fellow film-goers to avoid the theater and its horrendously overpriced tickets, instead choosing a theater that won’t clean out your entire wallet.