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Reclining Movie Seats Increase Online Ticket Sales by 50 Percent, Cinemark CEO Says

It’s the chairs, stupid

It’s the chairs, stupid.

American movie theater chains are in a mad dash to drive up attendance while digital platforms consumer their revenue, but there is a silver lining — comfy chairs go a long way.

Online ticketing sales for the Cinemark chain have increased 50 percent in over 1,000 individual theaters where they’re renovated with reclining, “leather-like” chairs, Cinemark Holdings CEO Mark Zoradi said Tuesday at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.

“Seating is the single most important initiative relative to our expenses,” Zoradi he said.

Forty percent of the almost 6,000 screens Cinemark owns will get “reclined,” as Zoradi put it, or crucial upgrades that have a ripple effect in spending at their locations.

Whenever a theater gets the souped-up new chairs, Cinemark mandates those seats be reserved in advance online — which is bringing customers online, especially older ones, Zoradi noted.

“They get used to it and can’t live without it,” he said. As a bonus, those customers “also have a propensity to go to concessions, because they already have their seats.”

The executive also weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding film release windows — a struggle in the industry to make movies available on demand, streaming or for purchase sooner than the traditional 90-day time period they play in theaters.

“We are interested in continuing discussions … obviously, we can’t do that in a public forum,” Zoradi said. 

“There are some studios that are very much wanting to do this, and some very much not,” he said. “It wasn’t long ago that theatrical was one-third of revenue flow for a major motion picture. Today, it provides about 50 percent of revenue flow.

He added, “It establishes value in ancillary markets like DVD and paid TV. It’s all tied to domestic box office.”