This past weekend I went to the movies on a date night with my wife. We went to the AMC megaplex to see Crazy Rich Asians. Normally we go to a smaller (and cheaper) theater that's a lot closer to home, but we had been given some AMC passes so we made the drive.
It's been several years since I last went to an AMC theater, and the first thing I noticed when we went in the door was two different lines to buy tickets: one for ordinary people, and a second for premium members of AMC's loyalty program. A similar two-line setup was visible at the concession stand.
"Just like the airport," was my gut reaction.
Fortunately there were no lines at the theater, so it didn't really matter that we weren't part of the exclusive club.
When we got to the ticket booth, we found that the showtime we wanted was in a premium "Dolby" theater, which required a surcharge in addition to our passes. It wasn't clear what the difference was between the regular theater and the super-fancy once, but faced with the choice of paying extra or waiting an hour for a cheaper theater, we decided to pay the random, unexpected surcharge.
"Also just like the airport," I thought.
But before we could buy the tickets, we had to go through an overly-complicated process of checking in because the theater only offered reserved seating despite the fact that it was two-thirds empty. (It didn't help that the screen for choosing seats was in tiny type which was difficult for my middle-aged eyes to read.)
"Someone at AMC really has a thing for air travel," I concluded.
The premium Dolby theater was definitely nicer than your standard movie theater, though I suspect a fluffy rom-com was probably not the best vehicle for showing off whatever fancy sound and projection gear the theater was equipped with. And we definitely enjoyed the movie.
But my overall impression was that next time we should stick with our local theater. Because while the AMC theater was definitely bigger and fancier, it just wasn't as pleasant. I suspect I'm not the only AMC customer to think "airport" when faced with AMC's premium lines, unexpected upcharges, and unnecessary hoops.
I suspect that I'm also not the only AMC customer for whom "airport" is not a positive association.