A new development in the cinema world could be set to change your movie going experiences for the better before long
US giant AMC Entertainment is mounting a $1.2 billion deal to acquire Odeon & UCI Cinemas, and what this could mean for the average UK cinema-goer is quite exciting.
The cinema giant is reportedly looking to bring its ‘US seating’, premium formats and food and beverage upgrade strategy to these shores.
In short, your trips to the local multiplex could be about to get a lot more epic.
I actually had the pleasure of attending a New Jersey branch of AMC back in February, for a rather enjoyable screening of the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!
And it wasn’t just the humourous tales unfolding onscreen that kept me entertained: the whole visit was an eye-opening experience from start to finish.
Here’s what you might expect if the AMC approach comes to Blighty.
More food and drink choices
As the cliché goes, in America everything is bigger and better. You might think the extra large Cokes down your local cinema are big, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The biggest cup available was almost twice the size as our idea of a ‘large’, and the popcorn selection could keep a family of four fed for a week.
It wasn’t just the size of the portions either, but the actual quality of the food on offer.
From the looks of it, it was all prepared freshly on site; and you could even choose how much butter you wanted on your popcorn mix.
Sure, you can get that kind of service in the UK, but only at your more boutique, independent picture houses. You can forget it at the big chains.
Then there’s the drinks. Self-served, bottomless fizzy pop was a highlight, and you could add just about any variety of flavoured syrups to your drink, making for some interesting combinations.
Apple and raspberry Coke? It can be done! A dash of cherry in your orange Fanta? Sure, why not!
Once I’d stocked up on cinema snacks, I was surprised to find the screen packed with amazing looking, leather seats.
Being British, immediately I searched for the crap, plastic seats I was used to back home, assuming I hadn’t paid the upgrade to these posher alternatives.
But no, these were the standard seats; La-Z-Boy style reclining armchairs that served as a shrine to the comfort Gods themselves.
Controlled by some nifty buttons on the arm rests, it was almost too comfortable at times, and you’d have to be sat in front of an extra gripping film to avoid drifting off. But get this: it was cheaper than a standard ticket over here.
In selected theatres, food and drink services were also available, with a member of staff being summoned to your seat by another button.
The little touches
Amc Theatre , Country Club Hill, Illinois 😍😍 pic.twitter.com/gHcVmnfwz2
— $hady (@junior_mook) April 8, 2016
It wasn’t just obvious things like the seat size, food choice or price that struck me, but the little details too.
The whole thing added to an overall presentation that is best described as ‘slick’. Whether it was the in-ear radios sported by staff, or the fact that every trailer shown before the film was followed by a no-nonsense screen of information including release dates and certification in case you missed it in the teaser.
The staff seemed friendly and more knowledgeable about the films; a far cry from British multiplex teams, who have up-selling drilled into them at the expense of actual information on upcoming film releases.
The advent of AMC cinemas to the UK could mean our stereotypical view of a night out at a soulless multiplex chain cinema changes forever.
But there’s more…
The points above are just the things I experienced in my trip to the AMC in Monmouth Mall, NJ. A quick look at the chain’s website reveals other features available in select branches, including food and drink services like no other.
Forget the unlimited dry popcorn afforded to us by Odeon’s Gallery screenings. I’m talking full, freshly prepared meals, the kind you’d expect to find at any good restaurant, brought right to your seat.
And with loyalty schemes in place to get any film fan excited, Saturday night at the movies could be about to get a whole lot more exciting.
Hopefully, AMC will bring a more American attitude to the cinema business, where spending money to improve services while keeping customer costs down is key, and it’s not all about scrimping and saving in as many areas as possible, as it is at the moment with the UK’s major chains.
We might not see all of these features implemented in their cinemas (refitting screens with bigger, more space-costly seating might not be realistic), but here’s hoping for an altogether bigger and better cinema-going experience.