MovieFone to save seats in Gotham

Looking to boost its service profile, MovieFone plans to begin a new reserved seating pilot program in New York later this month.

The film ticket and listing service company plans to begin the reservation service in Gotham on Nov. 14 at Cineplex Odeon’s Chelsea West and Ziegfeld Theatre. MovieFone officials say the program will start at Cineplex Odeon theaters in Los Angeles by year’s end, and is skedded to spread nationwide to selected venues in 1998.

“I don’t think it’s going to change the way people buy movie tickets,” MovieFone’s chief exec Andrew Jarecki told Daily Variety. But, “it’s going to give them the confidence that they have specific seats waiting for them and that they don’t have to race through the lobby to get seats.”

Much like the existing MovieFone service, film patrons will use their phones to select and pay for seats by credit card. For the same $1 service charge, the user will now have the option to select from front, middle or back portions theater as well as either left, center or right sections. In addition, customers also may choose aisle or center seats.

Some exhibitors see drawbacks in implementing the new service, including higher labor costs. In addition, many theater chains would have to lay out money to number seats.

“On the surface, we are not opposed to the idea,” said one major exhibitor company exec. “They are doing it for the dollar service charge, and if we thought it would be a good idea, we would be doing it ourselves.”

Jarecki says that once implemented, MovieFone will offer reserved seating for all seats in participating theaters. “The idea is to improve the experience, and from our standpoint, to make MovieFone much more important to the moviegoer.

Nationwide, MovieFone sells less than 5 million seats per year. Most of the company’s annual revenue is derived from film advertisements heard on its listing service.

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