What If You Could Pick Your Seat When Buying a Movie Ticket?

I’m currently in Bulgaria and recently went to a screening of the latest Indiana Jones movie. Since my wife and I decided to go to the movie with a group of friends on a Saturday night, we thought it best to buy the tickets in advance.

When we went to the box office to purchase our tickets, we were shown a screen that displayed the layout and available seats of that particular movie theater. We were then asked to pick the row and seat numbers we wanted. We were early enough to get seventh row center.

When I was a teenager, waiting in line for a movie or saving seats was as much a social event as it was a necessity. But nowadays, the “first come, first serve” method simply wastes my time, gets me crappy seats, or forces me to watch a popular movie later than its release weekend.

In the Bulgaria model, all seats were still priced equally. I can see how the economics of the situation would be problematic from the perspective of theaters maximizing their audiences and revenues. It’s human nature to assume that you won’t be the one to get the worst seat in the house for a sold out movie.

If you have a ticket, you have just as much of a chance at a good seat as anyone else. But if seats are assigned, and you understand that no good seats are available before you pay… well, you’d be more likely to change your plans (i.e., go to another movie, a later showing of the same movie, or do something else).

But then, why not price seats accordingly? If a theater knows it will be unlikely to sell out with this model, then it needs to make up for this. Certain seats should have a premium while others have a discount.

Perhaps I’m alone, but I’d definitely pay a couple bucks extra to pick good seats in advance. Time is money, as the saying goes. And I think I’m ready to be done with the extra time hassle anytime I want to see a new movie on a weekend.

What do you think? Is the current U.S. model fine as it is? Or would a change like this be an improvement?

  • That is interesting that they have assigned seats. I don’t think that would work hear unless the bad seats carried a lower price than the good ones. The other problem is how long could it take for some schmucks to choose their seat? I can see it now, the line is 20 people deep and someone can’t decide if they want the 10th row or the 13th…

    As for me, I’d pay for a good seat. It would actually make me more likely to go to a movie I bet. We usually go on a whim so if we aren’t that early we won’t even bother because I won’t sit in a crappy seat.

  • Yan

    This would probably be a good idea especially for those first day events when seats get all booked. Personally for me – I wouldn’t care. I rarely go to movies. Netflix works just fine

  • Assigned seats mean that you have to staff the theaters with ushers to A. ensure that people don’t steal other people’s seats and B. ensure that elderly etc. can find their assigned seats.

    That’s a significant monetary investment when you consider how many people you would need to staff it for all of the screens and all of the showings.

    A more economically viable model would be to just use this system for big premiers.

  • Bob Caswell


    In the model I saw, that wasn’t a problem. Seats and rows were clearly labeled, and you see the layout of the theater every time you purchase your ticket. Also, it’s not a football stadium or anything like it. It’s really, really simple to find your seat in a movie theater.