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Author Topic: Reclining seats (redux)
Mike Blakesley
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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 09-16-2019 03:44 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I decided to start a new thread on this because there was a previous thread on recliners but it was from 2015 and I'm just wondering what everyone's current thoughts are here in 2019.

Back then, I thought recliners were dumb in a theater because I figured you want to be upright to watch a movie, otherwise your body starts to want to fall asleep. I reasoned that since that happens at my house, it'd happen at a theater too. Somebody (Steve Guttag, I think?) told me, "try it, you'll like it!" But I was still skeptical.

Well I just came back from the annual Rocky Mountain NATO convention (which was a lot of fun) and I've had my mind changed.

I looked at some recliners from VIP Seating. They don't actually "recline" in the classic sense... they just sort of sit back, keeping you still upright, but your feet come up. So you can still see the screen, even on a sloped floor.

So now I'm more of a believer than I was before.

The other thing was, during the convention I talked to a LOT of owners who have installed recliners. They all raved about them and said their grosses have increased dramatically. One guy said he was "doubtful" at first so he only put recliners in half his auditoriums, but now plans to convert the rest.

One owner (who has about 45 screens) put it thusly - he said you have to stop thinking about "capacity" and start thinking about "utilization." There's no point in having a 200-seat auditorium where you only need all those seats four or five times a year, and you have 15% seat occupancy on average... when you could have 75% of them filled, and charge a couple bucks more for them in the process.

The bottom line is, last time I went to a convention (2016) most people were kind of skeptical about recliners, but this time, nearly everybody has either already gone that direction or is considering it.

I'm curious what the current Film-Tech consensus is.

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 09-16-2019 04:34 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I thought that the idea was dumb, too, but tried them and liked them. Not enough to pay extra for them, but, all things being equal, the recliner chairs are nicer than regular movie seats. Part of that is just having extra elbow room, as opposed to being squeezed againist the person in the next seat.

Unfortunately, these nice chairs usually come with assigned seating, which I really dislike. Especially for those crowded Tuesday 2pm shows. [Smile]

That said, I've only sat in these in recently built cinemas. I'm not sure how they would look in historic buildings. I don't find regular movie seats to be uncomfortable, and the industry has obviously done OK with them for a hundred years, so I don't think that every theatre needs to convert. If I owned a cinema, I would be concerned about cost and longevity (which I haven't personally researched and know nothing about).

How is that for a wishy-washy answer?

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Peter Castle
Expert Film Handler

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From: Wollongong University, NSW ,Australia
Registered: Oct 2003


 - posted 09-16-2019 05:49 PM      Profile for Peter Castle   Email Peter Castle   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is a current trend in at least one chain in Australia. I find, as others have stated, that if I recline, I fall asleep. Unfortunately, recliners are very uncomfortable if not reclined. So, as with many over 50s, I avoid recliners like the plague.

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Paul Finn
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From: Bay City, MI
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 - posted 09-17-2019 06:54 AM      Profile for Paul Finn   Email Paul Finn   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Also, please consider the additional cleaning and upkeep/maintenance costs over what will probably be a shorter lifetime of the recliner furniture vs. standard chairs.

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Marcel Birgelen
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From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
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 - posted 09-17-2019 09:15 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's a personal preference, obviously, but I'm also not really a fan of recliners. I've seen the first ones popping up in cinemas in the early 2000s. I like my seats to be adjusted to the viewing angle, they should support my back properly. So if I'm on a more traditional, sloped floor kind of arrangement, I'd like them to be more "reclined" as I'd otherwise constantly need to look up.

In a more stadium seated setting, I don't like seats that are too much inclined, because when I rest my back on them, I'm often looking up, towards the ceiling, while the center of the screen is right in front of me or maybe even slightly below me, depending on where I'm sitting and the layout of the room.

Although I usually don't fall asleep in a reclined position, I'm getting lazy nonetheless. If I'm watching a movie I'm not there to be in some kind of zombie state, but I want to watch what's happening on-screen.

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Geoff Jones
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From: Broomfield, CO, USA
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 - posted 09-17-2019 12:36 PM      Profile for Geoff Jones   Author's Homepage   Email Geoff Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
How often do you fill your theater more than 60-70%? If you add recliners, you'll have fewer seats. If people can't get seats, will they come to another showing? Even so, you wouldn't be increasing ticket sales, just spreading them out more. That could be a plus or minus for staffing, depending on your situation.

quote: Mike Blakesley
They all raved about them and said their grosses have increased dramatically.
Those increases can only come from two sources: Drawing more customers or increased ticket prices.

You don't appear to have any competition within 30 miles, so I can't imagine that adding recliners will draw more customers, unless...

Do your customers complain about the seats? If people are staying home because they find the theater uncomfortable, I suppose adding recliners might increase ticket sales a little.

So I guess the question is: How would increased ticket prices go over in your area? Have you thought about surveying your customers? The answers they give might not be perfectly in line with what they end up actually doing, but it might give you a sense about how passionately they feel about the possibility.

Be sure to check on the sight lines. They may position the viewer's head lower, which could make it harder to see over the chair in front of them. According to your website, that's been an issue in the past.

I also get the impression that theaters with recliners almost always have reserved seating. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.) Reserved seating gives theaters an excuse to add an online surcharge, in addition to the increased ticket price. But there's also the website set-up and the need for touchscreens or something at the box office. Are you prepared to set all that up?

I personally dislike them because they result in fewer seats in the area of the theater where I want to sit. (I assume this is why they are usually paired with reserved seating.)

$0.02 from someone who likes going to the cinema but knows very little about running one. [Smile]

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 09-17-2019 01:41 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Recliner seating can work in the right environment and theater location. Due to the expense and cost of upkeep I sure wouldn't install them in a lower income location. It might sound a tad bit elitist, but some people feel entitled to damage and vandalize seats and other fixtures in an auditorium. If the customer base is usually well-behaved then recliner seats might be a positive addition.

One thing is certain: audiences do take notice which theaters have recliners. It has turned into a bullet point thing, just like dine-in options. A lot of new theaters are being built recliners in most or all the auditoriums just as a means of keeping up with the competition.

Seat utilization is a big issue. We'll probably never see new theaters with more than 1000 seats in a single auditorium ever again due to that factor. There is a certain amount of operational cost per seat in a theater. More seats equals more cubic space to heat and cool. It also means more real estate to clean and more stuff to maintain. So if a given auditorium is expected to fill seats only to a certain level why go overboard with seating capacity?

It's possible to cram a lot of traditional style seats into an auditorium. But like Scott said, you get little if any elbow room with those seats. It's not too big a deal if the people sitting next to you are slender. It's a different matter if they're, well, like so many Americans these days. So that is indeed an added attraction for recliners.

Here's one thing I do like about some recliner based auditoriums:
Some of these houses feature solid wall-like partitions between each row. AMC's Dolby Cinema auditoriums all do this. Just past your feet is this partition that visually hides the people in the rows in front of you. The big reason why this is great: if some jackass is playing with his phone down in the next row you can't see the bright display. That cuts down on the light pollution and distractions. Of course that doesn't do anything about people to your left and right farting around with their phones. But you have other options at your disposal. Maybe slap them or bust out a really nasty fart.
[Big Grin]

quote: Marcel Birgelen
It's a personal preference, obviously, but I'm also not really a fan of recliners. I've seen the first ones popping up in cinemas in the early 2000s. I like my seats to be adjusted to the viewing angle, they should support my back properly.
Recliners in some theaters (such as AMC's Dolby Cinema houses) have independent controls to adjust the angle of the seat.

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Mike Croaro
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 - posted 09-17-2019 03:14 PM      Profile for Mike Croaro   Email Mike Croaro   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm not a big fan of recliners. I prefer traditional seating. However, recliners are utilitarian if your are forced to sit in the first 2-4 rows of a mid sized house.

Mike C.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 09-17-2019 03:41 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
These are all good questions. We aren't replacing our seats YET, but they are starting to fall apart here and there and show their age, and unfortunately the manufacturer is out of business and parts aren't available, plus they're nearly impossible to take apart for fixing anyway, so we're starting to think about what we're going to do next. So here are the answers, based on what we saw/heard at the convention.

quote: Geoff Jones
How often do you fill your theater more than 60-70%? If you add recliners, you'll have fewer seats. If people can't get seats, will they come to another showing? Even so, you wouldn't be increasing ticket sales, just spreading them out more. That could be a plus or minus for staffing, depending on your situation.
We don't fill it up all that often. We probably have "turn-away" crowds maybe 3 times a year. Our average occupancy runs around 16%, which is pretty common for standard-seating theaters I'm told.

quote: Geoff Jones
Those increases can only come from two sources: Drawing more customers or increased ticket prices.
Both.... from what I've heard, people don't mind paying a little more for better seats, and attendance IS increased by the increased comfort level leading to patron satisfaction. (This is what I hard from at least half-a-dozen operators.)

quote:
You don't appear to have much competition close by, so I can't imagine that adding recliners will draw more customers, unless...
I'm not sure about that one.... we DO have competition, just not all that close. People go to Billings to shop (an hour and a half away), and there are 24 AMC screens there. We constantly hear "I saw such-and-such in Billings." Sometimes they rave about the seats at the AMCs (which are admittedly a bit nicer than ours, but they don't recline...yet)

quote: Geoff Jones
Do your customers complain about the seats? If people are staying home because they find the theater uncomfortable, I suppose adding recliners might increase ticket sales a little.
We don't really get complaints now, no. Occasional comments about other places' seats though. Like I said, we haven't made any decisions yet, this is mostly me determining what way to go when we do move ahead with new seats the next time.

quote: Geoff Jones
How would increased ticket prices go over in your area?
Well, currently we haven't raised our prices in about 4 years so we could probably go up by a dollar and not bug anyone too much. We're already seen as quite the bargain because we're about $3 or $4 lower than the Billings theatres, and of course their concessions are WAY higher than ours.

quote: Geoff Jones
Be sure to check on the sight lines. They may position the viewer's head lower, which could make it harder to see over the chair in front of them. According to your website, that's been an issue in the past.
That is definitely a concern. If we did recliners we would have to spread the rows out by about 18 inches more per row, so it wouldn't be as much of an issue but it's definitely something to keep in mind.

quote:
I also get the impression that theaters with recliners almost always have reserved seating. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.) Reserved seating gives theaters an excuse for an online surcharge. Are you prepared to set that up?
We use RTS so we already have that capability. But I don't know if we'd impose such a charge. RTS charges 25 cents per transaction (not per ticket) for processing online ticket sales through their app, so it's really minimal. As for reserved seating, I can see both sides of that... we get quite of business from out of town, so I can see people really liking having a guaranteed seat. It would definitely be an adjustment for us, that's for sure.

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Geoff Jones
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 - posted 09-17-2019 03:45 PM      Profile for Geoff Jones   Author's Homepage   Email Geoff Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bobby Henderson
Here's one thing I do like about some recliner based auditoriums:
Some of these houses feature solid wall-like partitions between each row. AMC's Dolby Cinema auditoriums all do this. Just past your feet is this partition that visually hides the people in the rows in front of you.

I agree that this is good when it's installed properly. However, when the AMC in Broomfield remodeled their theater with recliners, they installed Plexiglas partitions that block the view in some seats in some of their auditoriums.

Here's one of many Google reviews complaining about it:
quote:
Do not go to this and sit in the recliners on the top half of the theater. This was our view the entire movie. This theater was not originally designed for this seating so when it was retrofitted, I'm sure they had to add the plexiglass wall to meet code. For reference I am 5' 8" and this was the view before I tried reclining. I couldn't even use the reclining feature because it was worse.
 -

If you scroll through the 1-star reviews, you'll also come across a number of complaints about the recliners needing cleaning, maintenance, and repair.

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Frank Cox
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 - posted 09-17-2019 03:51 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The problem that I can see with reserved seating is that you would need someone to enforce it and I don't see how that would work in a small theatre.

Some years ago I played a fireman show here and the fire department wanted to have all of their guys and their wives here together. So I marked off and roped off a section of seats for "Fire Department Seating Only". Taped a note to the back of each of the seats too.

I figured that would be all it took but after the show I had some of the guys saying that they couldn't sit in the fire department reserved section because other people had just move or removed the signs on the seats and sat there anyway.

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Mark Ogden
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 - posted 09-17-2019 04:08 PM      Profile for Mark Ogden   Email Mark Ogden   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Cinemark has taken the whole recliner thing to the point that they have given up on stadium seating in their new screens in Northern New Jersey. Each auditorium has a very gently raked floor with rows of recliners, and a screen that's placed fairly high. You pretty much HAVE to recline to see the whole image. I'm not a fan. It reminds me too much of the horrid old boxes that United Artists built in the eighties.

 -

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 09-17-2019 05:26 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Geoff Jones
I agree that this is good when it's installed properly. However, when the AMC in Broomfield remodeled their theater with recliners, they installed Plexiglas partitions that block the view in some seats in some of their auditoriums.
It's hard to judge at what height the camera was positioned, but if my view of the screen would be partially impeded by plexiglass, I'd ask my money back immediately if they couldn't provide me another seat.

Really, who comes up with this kind of stuff? I'd rather close the balcony than sell tickets to such a shit show.

quote: Frank Cox
The problem that I can see with reserved seating is that you would need someone to enforce it and I don't see how that would work in a small theatre.
There was a time when reserved seating used to be quite the standard in theaters, I think it's really the multiplex that did away with the concept of ushers due to a cost cutting measurement, which introduced the idea of free-for-all, first come, first serve seating.

Reserved seating is now often sold in conjunction with a more premium experience, but it's pretty rare to see someone checking whether you're seating yourself at your designated seat.

Those theaters primarily count on the fact that people will figure it out themselves and ask theater personnel if that doesn't work out...

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Bobby Henderson
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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 09-17-2019 09:24 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
 -

quote: Geoff Jones
I agree that this is good when it's installed properly. However, when the AMC in Broomfield remodeled their theater with recliners, they installed Plexiglas partitions that block the view in some seats in some of their auditoriums.
Yeah, a clear acrylic panel installed on top of the solid partition is a pretty stupid idea -as illustrated in your photo. I understand the motivation for installing the clear acrylic topper. It's likely there as an attemp to keep audience members from tossing pieces of popcorn, candy, pennies, used condoms or whatever onto people in the lower rows. If someone really wants to toss a Junior Mint through the air onto others below a little acrylic panel isn't going to stop that. Thankfully, none of the Dolby Cinema screens I've visited have that clear acrylic panel installed on top of those row dividers. Obviously someone at Dolby or AMC figured out the acrylic panel thingie was a bad idea and didn't build it onto a lot of subsequent Dolby Cinema installations. I don't know why AMC doesn't just remove that acrylic thing at the Broomfield location however.

A Dolby Cinema setup can't be dropped into just any existing auditorium either. Those partitions just past your feet should not be blocking the view of the screen at all. They're only supposed to block the view of the rows ahead of you (so you can't see everyone checking Facebook).

 -

quote: Mark Ogden
Cinemark has taken the whole recliner thing to the point that they have given up on stadium seating in their new screens in Northern New Jersey. Each auditorium has a very gently raked floor with rows of recliners, and a screen that's placed fairly high. You pretty much HAVE to recline to see the whole image. I'm not a fan. It reminds me too much of the horrid old boxes that United Artists built in the eighties.
That's pretty awful. I'd be pissed if I spent extra to watch a movie in a recliner style auditorium only to walk into a room like that. It's definitely a relic of 1980's shoebox screen design. The screen is offset to fit a damned door and bright green exit sign on the left side of the image. The tall shape of the screen almost guarantees 'scope movies will be shown in TV-at-home letter-box style. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the image was chopped at the ends (to fill more of the screen). I've seen that kind of treatment before in such auditoriums. Every movie gets shown in flat ratio.

Speaking of green exit signs, I really think movie theater screens need something to block out the green light pollution of those exit signs. A set of curtains and movable masking would do the trick in many locations. A shadow box around the screen would solve the problem in almost any location. Imagine what a matte black shadow box could do in conjunction with RGB laser projection. That might be pretty cool.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 09-18-2019 04:16 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bobby Henderson
The tall shape of the screen almost guarantees 'scope movies will be shown in TV-at-home letter-box style. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the image was chopped at the ends (to fill more of the screen).
To the defense of the theater in question, the screen, although seemingly void of movable masking, looks like it has an aspect ratio of close to scope in its current form.

quote: Bobby Henderson
A shadow box around the screen would solve the problem in almost any location. Imagine what a matte black shadow box could do in conjunction with RGB laser projection. That might be pretty cool.
What about the $25 solution? A shadowbox around the emergency exit lights? In 90% of all cases that would solve the problem pretty efficiently.

Also, local fire regulation often doesn't allow you to entirely switch off exit lights, it often does allow you to dim it to a certain degree, but even that's seldomly employed.

Recently, I was in a theater were there was a green LED shining on me the entire time. Apparently, it was supposed to light up the isle. According to the cinema owners, it would be less irritating than more direct isle lighting and less of the light would end up on screen. While that last part might have been true, sitting in a green glow during the entire show was highly distracting.

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