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Condemned and Redeemed

There’s a section of town just outside the city limits that makes my skin crawl.  I’m not going to name it since, knowing my luck, you probably live there.  But suffice to say, it is crowded with expensive stores, contains limited parking so everyone in a car is on edge, and the sidewalks are usually clogged like plaque-filled arteries.  It is an unenjoyable experience to meet anyone there.

Of course, last week, the movie we wanted to see was only being shown there.  So we drove down to the town, spent an inordinate amount of time trying to park, and I hopped out of the car to get us tickets while Josh spent another 10 minutes trying to feed the newfangled meter.

I stepped up to the window at the movie theater and asked for two adult tickets.  They asked me where I wanted to sit in the theater and brought up a computer screen showing that pretty much EVERY SINGLE SEAT was open because even though it was only three minutes before the movie was set to begin, it was the middle of the week and fairly quiet.

I know that assigned seats in movie theaters abroad are the norm, and I have to be frank: I think it’s a terrible idea.  We’re not talking about a stage theater experience where different seats have different visibility.  We’re talking about a small room that usually has gum stuck to the bottom of the chair.  What if I get to my chosen seat and the floor is sticky from a spilled soda?  Or I’m sitting next to someone annoyingly texting through the movie?  In all other theaters, you look at the screen, judge the distance back you wish to be based on the type of movie, and — as a short person — glance at where other people are sitting and seat myself accordingly in a space where I can see.  And you move if your chosen seat suddenly annoys you.

I was cheerfully informed that if I wanted to change seats once in the theater, I could get an employee to move my seat before the show begins.

If it had been the weekend and the theater was semi-full, I could understand sticking to their plan, especially if you’d like to see before you buy tickets that there will be two seats together.  But did I mention the theater was empty?  This was just one more reason to hate this section of the city.

I bought the tickets because I knew Josh would want to stay. (I would have immediately walked out on the idea of the movie.)  But I told him that it would be the last time I’d ever step foot in that theater.  The movie itself was nice writing and nice acting with a weak plot and weak characters.  I’m not going to name it because, knowing my luck, you probably wrote it.  But suffice to say, it was so not worth the annoyance of assigned seats.  As we left the theater, I reminded Josh to take a good look around because I would never see that concession stand or ticket booth as long as I lived.

I mean, unless they change their assigned seat policy.

Can I take a break in the story to ask your opinion on this?  What do you think about assigned seats in movie theaters?  I’m not talking enormous, old movie theaters.  I’m talking about normal 15-row movie theaters.  And please add if you live in a place where this is the norm.

Feel free to try to convince me of the beauty of assigned movie theater seats since I clearly don’t see it.

Afterward, we went to get sushi, and through the large plate glass windows of the restaurant, we could see people entering and exiting Max Brenner’s chocolate bar across the street.  We were debating whether or not it was finally open for business or whether the people we had seen in the building were doing construction (at 10 pm?).  After dinner, we slipped across the street to check it out, and realized that they must be still building it hence why paper was still covering the glass.

“Let’s try to peek in through that slit in the paper,” I said, and brought my head down to the crack.

At that moment, the door opened, and a man tried to walk out, straight into me.  We started laughing, admitting that we’re pretty excited to have Max Brenner chocolates in the city; excited enough to creepily try to peek into a construction site.  The man invited us inside to see the progress.  It’s gorgeous.  The bar itself looks like squares of chocolate, and across the wall in a 70’s inspired font are the words: Chocolate is Good For You.  I commented that I couldn’t wait for the store to open because I promised the ChickieNob a special mother-daughter trip for dessert.

And the man told me he could make my night.  He went into the kitchen and brought us two containers of chocolate to take home to the twins.

Blew my mind.

We walked back to the car, sniffing the wrapped chocolates.  You could practically attain orgasm just by nasally experiencing the chocolate.  You can imagine what happens when you actually put it in your mouth.

I like cheap chocolate as much as the next person.  I’m a huge fan of Hershey kisses and M&Ms.  But there is nothing like really good, very creative Israeli chocolate.

That man’s generosity redeemed an otherwise irredeemable town.  Rather than writing off part of the map, I’ve decided to only condemn the movie theater.  And yes, like everyone else, I will go through the frustration of parking to visit four square blocks I like to call the Devil’s Armpit in order to get my hands on more Max Brenner’s chocolate.

Doing it for a chocolate bar make sense, unlike assigned seats in a movie theater.

36 comments

1 Tracie { 07.30.13 at 7:27 am }

I have never been to a movie theater with assigned seats. For all the reasons you mentioned, it seems like a terrible idea to me. I wouldn’t go back either. And what a hassle to get someone to change your seats for you before the movie starts – what if the 6’5″ couple sit down in front of you during the previews? Can you change then? MAYBE it would be helpful on a Friday night opening of a very popular movie, so you can guarantee to find several seats together, but that is hardly the norm in movie going, and doesn’t seem to justify a mostly annoying system.

I have never had a Max Brenner chocolate, but it sounds wonderful.

2 Betttina { 07.30.13 at 7:37 am }

Oh, wow, free fancy chocolate! That really would make everything better!

3 Jodi { 07.30.13 at 7:54 am }

We were right there last week too! I wonder if we were there on the same night! I actually like that area of town, but that is neither here nor there. Is the chocolate place ever going to open? It’s been delayed MONTHS.

4 Shelli { 07.30.13 at 8:57 am }

All of the theaters near me are transitioning to assigned seats. I hate it.

Also, the trend is “cocktail” seating (yep, seeing a movie is now like sitting at a round table at the Golden Globe awards), and lounge seating (laying on a leather sofa/recliner). No way.

I get the heebie jeebies just sitting in a nasty old theater seat. Thanks goodness for cable. lol.

5 Chickenpig { 07.30.13 at 9:14 am }

Assigned movie theater seats??? Never even heard of it. But then again I live in a town with one street light 🙂 I can’t say that I like the idea very much, although I haven’t seen it in action.

6 Pundelina { 07.30.13 at 9:17 am }

I prefer allocated seating. If my seat is grotty or whatever I can cahnge it, but there’s nothing worse than buying unallocated seats and walking in only to find that you’re in the front rows. My neck can’t cope with a tilt for hours, so those seats aren’t worth having for me. With allocated seating I get to see where I’m sitting before and judge whether it’s a go-er or not before I buy tickets.
🙂 free choc – YUM!

7 Justine { 07.30.13 at 9:19 am }

I don’t love movie theaters in general. Too loud, too scratchy-sounding, sticky floors. Especially now that they have dine-in theaters up by us.

But chocolate? *sigh* The one vendor I loved at BlogHer was Wild Ophelia. I don’t think I ever tried Max Brenner, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I walked by it once in NYC …

8 Catwoman73 { 07.30.13 at 9:35 am }

I’ve never heard of assigned seating in movie theaters! I can certainly see the benefit for the viewer on those busy Friday nights- book your seat early enough, and you won’t be stuck in the front row. It doesn’t seem to make sense for theater though- people may just choose not to see a movie at all if there’s only front row seats available, and if those seats go unfilled, that is reduced profit for the theater. Odd.

And there’s nothing better than good chocolate. NOTHING. And to get it for free? Even better! How nice that this man’s generosity redeemed an otherwise so-so evening!

9 missohkay { 07.30.13 at 9:37 am }

I’d rather just get there really early to make sure I get a seat. I’m a shusher in a movie theatre and if people don’t shush when I shush them, I will move. Or go get management. I like having both options.

10 Amy Elaine { 07.30.13 at 9:49 am }

Sundance 608 has assigned seats. I like it because there is one row that is superior – it has a rail you can put your feet up on, and there is no one in front of you to obstruct your view. So the thing I really like is you can book that in advance, and saunter in right before the movie starts to rock star seats – don’t have to get there ridiculously early. https://www.sundancecinemas.com/
It’s also a beautiful theater that is immpecabbly maintained.

11 gabrielle { 07.30.13 at 9:50 am }

These days, I don’t go to the movies often. When I do I usually arrive early to make sure I get the seat I want. I imagine that like you, had I ever been presented with assigned seating in a plain old movie theater I would have left and just gone to RedBox or something similar. To me assigned seating isn’t worth it. I’m particular in where I like to sit and who I sit next to. Even for a premiere night assigned seating doesn’t make sense, there’s perhaps more order but it takes away from the movie going experience. I wonder if this is one of their ways to bring more customers in to a failing business model.

12 Sara { 07.30.13 at 9:57 am }

I would not go to a moie theater with assigned seats. I rarely go to the movie theater because I prefer to sit at home in my pajamas watching a movie. If I do go I want to be able to pick my seat for all of the reasons you talked about. The chocolate sounds delicious and even better that it was free!

13 Mali { 07.30.13 at 10:45 am }

I live in a country (or city) where assigned seating is the norm. If it’s a weekend and the cinema is full, then everyone sticks to their assigned seating. If it is clear that it is not that busy, then people pretty much sit where they want. There are no ushers these days, so no-one really to check on you anyway, and people are generally courteous.

And I quite like being able to reserve seats in advance (on-line), which means a) I know where I’m seating, and b) I’m not going to make the effort of getting out of the house, and turn up only to be turned away from my chosen movie/time.

We also have a number of small “boutique” theatres with assigned seating on couches (sofas?), we can buy wine and take in coffee, and our larger theatres now have the recliner seating (first class for movies) where you can get food/coffee/drinks delivered during the movie. We quite often go to those, both for the comfort, and the peace and quiet.

As for chocolate, I can understand your excitement. I’ve only ever had Hershey’s kisses about once (or maybe twice – it wasn’t memorable). The first time I tasted them, I seriously doubted they actually had any chocolate in them!

14 Prairie { 07.30.13 at 11:11 am }

I have DH who loves movies & loves a good seat. As new parents we love the assigned seats. We pre-buy & don’t need to be at the theatre 45 mins early for good seats. That’s 45 mins more at home with the kid. For us it’s worth the extra cost. Also, as new parents pre-purchased tickets make us commit to going. If the kid’s having a bad day, or I feel particularily clingy, it’d be easy to bail. With the pre-paid tickets we actually go to the movie. Love them.
Our experience has been that you can easily switch seats without staff intervention if the theatre is empty enough.

15 Ana { 07.30.13 at 11:14 am }

Several people mentioned above reserving the seats on-line in advance, which makes sense. But assigned seats when you show up to an empty theater is weird. Not sure it’d drive me away from the theater forever, but I’d find it annoying (have never actually encountered this anywhere). In any case, hooray for free chocolate. We have a Max Brenner here but…I’ve never been. I always figured it’d be a good place to take my boys when they are a bit older. But maybe I’ll need to make a child-free trip… I have become quite a chocolate snob. I can’t even eat cheap chocolate anymore. I actually don’t like milk chocolate at all, I’ve acquired a taste for extra extra dark, single-sourced. Yeah, like I said, snob.

16 Tigger { 07.30.13 at 11:14 am }

While I can see the usefulness of assigned seating if you have a group of people, it would still annoy the ever loving hell out of me. And what happens if your group is showing up at different times and paying for their own tickets? You’d end up separated, unless someone paid for all the tickets up front…and then what happens when the rest of your group doesn’t show?

I have a spot I like to sit in, because it’s usually high enough for me to see over other people but not so high that I can’t see the screen very well. The sound hits just right, which is hella useful when you have a hearing issue. I can’t always get that spot, but I can usually get close enough to it that it’s not a problem. I would be SO freaking irritated if our main theaters did assigned seating. My husband would be relegated to having to see second run and/or digital versions once released.

17 Another Dreamer { 07.30.13 at 11:56 am }

I’ve never even heard of assigned seating in a movie theater! I haven’t been in awhile, but my city is so off the radar that I doubt that would ever pop up even. I would not like that. At all. I often pick a seat, try it out, and if I don’t like it I switch. If it’s crowded, we just take what we can get, but we don’t usually have that issue.

18 Esperanza { 07.30.13 at 12:35 pm }

I personally LOVE the idea of allocated movie theater seats. I don’t go to many movies anymore (sad face emoticon) but when I so I’m usually trying to see a big blockbuster on opening weekend (I’m a huge sucker for comic book adaptations especially). So I love the idea of not having to camp out on the gross movie theater floor outside for hours until they open the doors. We go the IMAX a lot and there it really DOES matter where you sit. Now I can reserve my top favorite spots that are in the middle but next to a handicap exit so I can be in the middle AND leave to go to the bathroom without disturbing anyone. It’s like my own personal dream come true. 😉

19 nonsequiturchica { 07.30.13 at 1:51 pm }

I have never been to a movie theater with assigned seats but it sounds like such a hassle for both the theater and the movie-goer. Of course, I don’t see movies in the theater that often (it’s probably been 1.5 years?), but that just sounds annoying.

20 gradualchanges { 07.30.13 at 2:31 pm }

OMG, assigned seats at a movie theater!!! I’ve never even heard of that. At first glance it sounds like a terrible idea and I agree with all of your points. I will say that hubby and I like to sit center-center in the theater and so we’re always showing up an hour early for a movie so we can (hopefully) be first in line and can get the seats we want. I guess I won’t knock it till I try it, but I’m not really interested in trying it anytime soon. Assigned seats at a movie theater in new york city would probably cause a riot anyway.

21 Sarang { 07.30.13 at 2:48 pm }

Love kindness from strangers! But kindness from strangers involving CHOCOLATE? Well, that’s just a whole new category. 🙂

My vote on assigned movie seats? Agreed. No need for regular old movies. Theater, yes. Movie, no.

22 Amy { 07.30.13 at 3:57 pm }

the only theatre I’ve ever been to in the states that has assigned seating was one that serves food…a resturant and a movie theatre…and in that form, assigned seating makes perfect sense. other than that, I’d be pretty annoyed by it too.

and free chocolate from a max brenner chocolate shop? before it opens? you are one lucky girl. Did it make it home to the kids? I’m not sure it would have in my car!

23 Karen (formerly Serenity) { 07.30.13 at 4:00 pm }

I rarely go to the movies, and if it meant I had to choose a seat when I bought a ticket? Forget it. I wouldn’t bother.

There’s a Max Brenner on Boylston Street in Boston: I have yet to go and have ALWAYS wanted to. A good friend of mine was there this year watching people finish the marathon. She was safe, thank goodness. I know it’s irrational – I mean, I wasn’t even THERE that day. But that section of the block will never be the same for me, and I’m not sure I can go.

Maybe I should try your Max Brenner to discover just how good and creative Israeli chocolate can be. That might overcome the reluctance. 🙂

24 a { 07.30.13 at 4:26 pm }

Free chocolate! Guess that guy knows how to create customers for life…

I have not heard of assigned seating (except in those fancy drinks/dinner movie theaters). Initially, I hate the idea, but I suppose I could get used to it. As someone else mentioned, at least I’d know in advance if I wanted to sit through the whole movie in a crap seat or just pick another movie or another time.

I do, however, hate annoying neighborhoods with lots of retail and insufficient parking. Whoever designed the two towns north of us was crazy – they put all the retail (4 grocery stores, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Petsmart/Petco, Home Depot/Lowe’s, Kohl’s, Sam’s Club, Office Max/Depot,) and all the fast food (just about – there’s another McDonald’s and a Wendy’s on the other side of town) in one 2 mile strip. There’s no way to avoid the traffic on the weekend.

25 JustHeather { 07.30.13 at 4:56 pm }

When I ran across assigned seats for the first time, I thought it strange, but not so bad. My homedown doesn’t have assigned seats. Waiting in line forever (ok, only a couple of hours) to see Star Wars and then having to RUSH to get a decent seat sucked. In my new town, I would have been able to “wait online” (and try to beat the rush of everyone else buying an early or midnight showing) to purchase a ticket. And I would know exactly where me and my group of friends were going to sit, together! Even if we arrived at different times, because I bought my tickets online, I was emailed my tickets in a pdf file that I printed out and gave everyone their ticket ahead of time. I also confirmed with friends beforehand if they were going or not. Once their attendance was confirmed, if they backed out they still paid me, unless someone else purchased their ticket.

I’m all for assigned seats these days. No sitting in the way front and it’s just so easy!

26 JustHeather { 07.30.13 at 4:57 pm }

p.s. OMG! Free yummy chocolate?! *drool*

I like M&Ms…but never appreciated chocolate until I came to Finland and had better chocolate. Most US (cheap) chocolate tastes waxy to me.

27 It Is What It Is { 07.30.13 at 6:11 pm }

OMG, I am the polar opposite of you in this regard. We have an Arclight Cinema in town that has assigned seats (and, as a member, I save $1 per ticket when booking on-line and I get 1 point for every dollar I spent and can redeem 50 points for $5 off at the concession (if that makes sense)). And, we have a swanky iPic theater in town, too.

I will ONLY see movies at a theater where I can purchase my tickets and pick my seats on-line. Period.

28 persnickety { 07.30.13 at 7:11 pm }

I can remember my shock at assigned seats the first time i encountered them (UK in the 90s) but now they are just part of the process. And really, unless it is a Gold class movie (lounge style seats, food delivered to chair, no kids) or sold out, the seats aren’t particularly enforced.
And why assign seats to random buyers at the theatre- because they may sit in the seats that that the online buyers reserved- the system won’t let the cinema sell tickets with no allocation.

I don’t care much about it, I don’t have to sit in a particular seat, but my husband and his movie buddy are very particular.

Max Brenner- we have one in Brisbane, but I have only been once- because waiting for an hour to get chocolate is not on. The hot chocolate was lovely, but the wait was not.

29 Wolfers { 07.30.13 at 7:39 pm }

Assigned seats for movie theatres??? New to me… when did that start? It hadn’t happened here (so far). And the chocolates..? AWESOME!

30 Stupid Stork { 07.30.13 at 8:48 pm }

Considering I used to live in your area I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep at night without knowing what town you speak of.

Yeah I’m not really into the assigned theatre seating.. Here it varies by theatre. I have a friend who’s VERY into it and reserves midsection middle row on the internet looong before we go. I can totally see the validity of it if it’s on a weekend or a crowded movie theatre – why when it’s not crowded they still insist on doing it is beyond me.

31 KB { 07.30.13 at 11:42 pm }

Our theatres nearby currently have a mix – one has assigned seats, one has some assigned seats, a couple of others are still a free for all. From my perspective, I love assigned seats. We have no one trained to watch our disabled daughter on the weekends other than us, so the few movie we see in the theatre are for us a tag team proposition. It’s so nice to be able to show up right when the movie is due to start instead of having to get there with tons of extra time-padding just to guarantee I’m not going to be stuffed into the very front row. It also makes it possible for one of us to race home and the other to get there in time to see the next show. (And when we do take her, now that they’ve gone to assigned seating, the wheelchair seating is SO much better than it was before. Well, all of the seats are better. It used to be a pretty grungy theatre.)

32 Kathy { 07.31.13 at 1:49 am }

One of our local theaters starting offering reserved seats, at least during opening week of a new movie, and we love it! I like being able to pick where we will sit and not have to worry about arriving super early to get good seats. Also, the same theater converted their seats to comfy leather recliners and we try not to go anywhere but there now, as the whole experience rocks (for us)! Interesting to read yours and others’ perspectives on this. 🙂

33 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 07.31.13 at 8:05 am }

Yeah, we do assigned seats here. I don’t mind it, especially with the kids. You get your tickets ahead of time, then you don’t have to either stake out the theatre with a five year old who has trouble sitting still for a normal-length movie anyway, or crane your neck in the front row. Then again, the theatres are usually pretty full, so it makes sense (and if they aren’t you just reassign yourselves at will without staff intervention and sort it out neatly and personally with other movie-goers if need be).

But in Australia they usually don’t, and it’s not a big deal because the theatres usually aren’t that full. In your situation I would have chosen at random then done what I wanted once inside.

34 Melanie { 07.31.13 at 2:16 pm }

I’ve never heard of assigned seating in a movie theater. But I also just went to my first movie in 4 years, a few weeks ago. I think I like the idea though. Especially trying to get to a movie with 2 kids. Pick early, arrive last minute. Works for me!

I have not had Max Brenner chocolates but we have a fantastic master chocolatier here in West Chester. Éclat chocolate owned by christopher Curtin. It has ruined me for all other chocolates. I tried one of my kids Easter chocolates, hersheys i think, and spit it out. Tasted just like wax. I used to love Godiva and haven’t had that since I first tasted and now covet at all times Éclat. I’m curious to try them and see if they taste waxy now to me as well.

35 loribeth { 08.02.13 at 2:29 pm }

I have heard rumblings that this may be coming. Not sure how I feel about it. I suppose if you want to go to a new movie that has lots of buzz on its opening weekend & you’re particular about where you sit, it might be a good thing. I generally like the freedom to pick my own seat when I walk into the theatre — usually somewhere near the back & on or near the aisle. 😉

36 Pam { 08.09.13 at 5:43 pm }

Assigned seats are the norm here for IMAX and AVX. Because we “acquire” movies we don’t generally hit a theatre unless it’s something action packed that DH wants to see. And then it’s usually in one of the above formats anyway. We like the reserved/assigned seating because it does let us choose where we want. I don’t like being up too close and this way if there’s nothing but the first 4-6 rows (which is super close for these theatres), then we can pass for another night. It also allows to plan several days in advance and buy our preferred seats then. And if we are organizing a group because something big/popular is about to open (DH likes to see stuff on opening night – we have been known to hit the midnight shows) we send out the email well in advance. Anyone who wants to join us has to fork up their money before we buy the tickets. This way everyone is together and can arrive just before the show starts.

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