This post is inspired by stumbling across the @AllocatedCine Twitter account, an account that’s aim is to show “Cineworld Cinemas that it’s customers, hate the new alloacted seating ruling.”
I go to the cinema a lot – so far this year I have been 32 times and by the end of the year it will probably works out on average to be at least once a week. Besides from loving films, I love the cinema-experience – seeing a film on a big screen with other people who are just as interested in what they’re about to watch as you are is a great feeling.
I got to a variety of cinemas and different cinema chains depending where I am. My local cinema when I’m at University (which is roughly nine months of the year) is an Odeon. They have allocated seating but not at every single screening. If you go for an early afternoon screening for a smaller film (or even some of the bigger ones if it’s been out for a while) you can generally choose your seat. It’s when it’s Wednesdays, weekends and late afternoons/evenings that allocated seating comes into effect really. When you go to the ticket desk they ask where you want to sit (after asking if you want premiere seats) “front, middle or back?” you say where and every time I’ve got a seat that I’ve been happy with. It’s only been incredibly busy screenings like seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on opening day that I ended up sitting next to strangers which is perfectly understandable. The rest of the time they tend to spread you out so if there is only five people in the cinema, you’re not all clumped together.
The next closest cinemas to me when I’m at University are Vue’s. They also have allocated seating and it is a well-oiled machine just as it is in my local Odeon. In fact they often have touch-screens that can turn and face you so you can choose your exact seats yourself.
So for the past four years I’ve been at University, pretty much every time I’ve gone to the cinema I’ve had allocated seating and it’s worked out pretty well.
That being said when I’m home my two local cinemas are Cineworld’s (Chichester & Crawley – I live pretty much equal distance to both, just have to turn a left or right at the end of my road) and whenever I went home I really enjoyed being able to choose my own seat. The only time there was allocated seating was if you were seeing a film in the IMAX at Crawley, which makes sense. I’m one of those people who always ends up at a cinema half an hour before a film starts so I know I’m going to get the seat I want and if there’s a group of us going, we’ve never had trouble getting seats together. I haven’t been to my local Cineworld cinema’s since the allocated seating came into effect, but I have been to the Cineworld at Wembley – there the whole process went smoothly. Yes it was a 3pm showing of Chef on a Wednesday so there was hardly going to be mass crowds but me and my friend easily got seats we wanted – they even had the swivel touch-screens like Vue so we could see where seats were taken and pick our own seats.
When allocated seating is done well, it works. If you book online you know you’re going to get the seat you want – only once have I ever had someone in my seat but I’m pretty sure that was an accident. A friend and I went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and only one of our seats were free – turns out someone further down the row sat in the wrong seat so it knocked everyone out of order. After simply asking people to check their tickets, it was sorted in seconds.
I think the problem Cineworld is having right now is that it is trying to be like all the other big cinema chains, when it was nice that they were differnt and you could pick your own seat. Also, it seems by the complaints voiced on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook that their system automatically puts all customers together even when it’s not going to be a busy screening.
There have been calls for people to use their local independent cinema instead of Cineworld and I’m all for using independent cinemas. That being said, my local independent cinema when I’m back home also has allocated seating. But they do have a seating chart available on the front desk for you to look at when buying tickets – so you can see where you’ll be sitting.
In short, allocated seating is what is happening in cinemas and there’s nothing customers can do about it. It is unfortunate and surprising how Cineworld hasn’t really replied to or addressed any of the issues raised on social media by its customers – that’s bad Public Relations right there. I think that once the system gets better at Cineworld and both employees and customers get used to it, it will become the well-oiled machine I’ve experienced at other cinema chains.
The one thing I have to say to Cineworld is – don’t try and cram more seats in your cinema screens, the great amount of leg room is my favourite thing about going to the cinema back home. The lack of decent legroom at my local Odeon when I’m at University is the only negative about my experience going to that cinema.
What do you think about allocated seating? I agree that it sucks that Cineworld has changed to allocated seating when one of the best things about it and what made it different to other cinema chains was the fact that you could pick your own seat. But once all the kinks are ironed out I’m sure people will see that it’s not that big a deal.
To see Cineworld’s reasons for changing to allocated seating go here.