Moviegoers heated by AMC Theater's new seat pricing plan

Moviegoers sit in their seats in a crowded theater
(Image credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

UPDATE: this story has been updated with pricing and additional information on the new Sightline program

Movie theaters have been trying to figure out ways to draw customers back to see the new movies on the big screen, but according to many on social media, a new business plan from AMC Theaters may have the opposite effect.

AMC Theaters, the largest chain of movie theater in the US, have announced a new seat pricing plan that will charge customers different prices for a movie ticket depending on where they plan to sit, with "preferred" areas (ie the middle) more expensive. AMC is calling this new plan Sightline at AMC. The plan is being rolled out in select locations (about 40 theaters in New York, Chicago and Kansas City, according to Variety) starting February 10 as a test before being implemented at all AMC locations by the end of the year.

In its announcement, AMC said their goal is to provide "moviegoers with multiple options to meet their viewing preferences." Specifically, moviegoers are going to have three pricing options to pick from when they select a ticket:

  • Standard Sightline: the most common seats in auditoriums, available at the standard cost of a movie ticket
  • Value Sightline: front row seats, as well as select ADA seats, that are available at a lower price than Standard Sightlight seats. FYI though, you must be an AMC Stubs member to get the lower ticket price, though that includes their free movie theater membership program, AMC Insider
  • Preferred Sightline: seats typically in the middle of the auditorium, priced at “a slight premium”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Preferred Sightline seating is going to cost between $1-$2 more dollars than Standard seats. The Value seats are going to be discounted $2.

Some other key details in the plan include AMC offering detailed seat maps that clearly outlines each seating option when buying your ticket (whether you do it online, in the AMC app or in person). The tiered pricing applies to all shows after 4 pm, though it won't be used on AMC's Discount Tuesdays, which offers all tickets for $5.

AMC also likely hopes to encourage people to sign up to its monthly subscription program, AMC Stubs A-List, as members are going to have the ability to make reservations in Preferred Sightline seats at no additional cost. No word on how something like this might impact a third-party movie theater subscription service like MoviePass.

The big questions for this plan are going to be how many seats are classified as "Preferred Sightline." That likely won't be publicized until AMC begins rolling out the plan to more of its theaters. Also, the question of enforcement is an interesting one; what would stop people from paying for a Standard seat but then moving to a Preferred one if the theater wasn't full? 

To be fair, sporting events, concerts and other entertainment offerings have almost always charged different prices depending on where you want to sit. But that has never been the case with the movies. Top that with the fact movie ticket prices reportedly averaged $11 in 2022 and some people being more content to wait for a movie to be available to watch at home, there were plenty who think this is a bad way to draw people back into theaters. No surprise that a good bit of the jokes came at the expense of AMC's Nicole Kidman-starring commercial.

Here's what moviegoers on the internet were saying about the plan:

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.