Last night I convinced Stephen to see Toy Story 3 with me at Chicago’s new super swank movie theater. Part of it’s super swankness is that it assigns seats, which is a good idea in theory. You can buy your tickets early then go grab dinner without having to rush back to get a good seat. What the theater operators don’t realize is that humans possess an innate desire to sit in the perfect seat, even if another seat has been assigned to them. We were some of those seat changers. We got there early and thought we bought the perfect seats–the front row center of the stadium seating, which has the bar you can rest your feet on. But when we got into the theater we realized the set up was different from our usual AMC theater–the row we picked wasn’t elevated off the ground at all. We might as well have picked the very first row. So one minute until show time we moved up a few rows. The movie was starting in one minute and it was a 9:10pm showing, not that many people were going to show up, right? We thought wrong. Apparently people believe one of the advantages of assigned seats is that you can arrive 15 minutes late and your seats will be waiting for you. I guess they were not aware of the unofficial assigned seat rule: If your seat is empty once the movie or show begins (this rule also applies to concerts and sporting events), it’s free game. We weren’t the only ones to follow this rule and upgrade our seats. But five minutes into the previews people started appearing out of the woodwork. And every single one of them had to ask someone to move out of their seats. We were in someone’s seats so we moved down two. Then the people assigned to those seats arrived 10 minutes late, but were courteous enough to realize they were 10 minutes late and asking us to move would disrupt the movie, so they sat on the end of the row. We thanked them graciously and told them someone was sitting in our seats, which was actually true now. There was no going back to our original ones. Then 20 minutes after the scheduled start time, three people showed up and in a very rude tone explained that the girls in front of us were in their seats. The girls had gotten themselves comfortable and had food spread out everywhere. After all, they had been sitting there for over 20 minutes. The newcomers stood and blocked the screen for the rest of us as the embarrassed girls gathered their things and moved to the front rows.
Who do you think was in the wrong? Technically the girls were since they were not sitting in their assigned seats. But showing up 20 minutes late to a movie and causing a ruckus is also rude. In short, there’s a reason most movie theaters do not practice assigned seating. The rules were just meant to be broken.