Sit back, relax and enjoy the show’ just gained new meaning for patrons of AMC Maple Ridge 8 in Amherst. Comfortable, plush, red leather recliner seats have been installed in the theater.
AMC is making its screening rooms feel more like living rooms with the big seats and an expanded menu to compete with the urge to stay home and watch a movie on Netflix or another movie-on-demand service.
And they’re not alone.
The fancy theater make-overs represent a small segment of the market, but it’s growing, according to Patrick Corcoran, the vice president and chief officer of communications for the National Association of Theatre Owners.
The local theater – the only AMC in the region – is one of about 25 in the national chain to get new seats in the last two years, as the company vies to increase ticket sales and attract customers by becoming a “destination theater.”
“We’ve been seeing more of it recently,” Corcoran said about the seating. He pointed to iPic Theaters, which have no New York locations, that offer dining, bars and luxury seating, as one of multiple examples.
At least for now, theatergoers at the Amherst AMC are paying the same price they did for tickets before the renovations took place. The theater dramatically reduced the number of seats to make room for the large chairs.
Capacities in AMC auditoriums with the new seating have been cut 50 to 70 percent. Some of the revamped theaters now hold 28-32 people, while the largest range from 160 to 180. The Amherst theater has eight auditoriums that seat from 64 to 151 moviegoers.
Maple Ridge 8 also has an expanded menu that includes chicken tenders, pizza, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers, as well as a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, which allows customers to pick from over 100 different beverages. All the theaters also are equipped new speakers and screens.
“We wanted to revolutionize the way people watch movies in Buffalo,” said Ryan Noonan, AMC spokesman.
It’s an understandable goal; movie ticket sales have declined in the past decade. Though sales picked up in 2012 to 1.3 billion, they are still shy of the 1.5 billion sold 10 years ago.
The impact of the seat switch on sales at AMC has been tremendous, Noonan said. “Attendance has been like we’ve never seen.”
Though the auditoriums now hold fewer people, the theaters that have undergone the change have seen increases in sales, Noonan said.
“It feels like home,” said Jim Scherer of Amherst, who came to catch “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” this week with his wife and daughter. His wife, Tina, agreed their choice in movie theaters “diminished down to one.”
Conor Crandall, 6, and his godmother, Phyllis O’Byrne of Lockport, sat a row below the Scherers. “I like these chairs,” said Connor, visiting from Medina, as he kicked his feet up onto the footrest.
O’Byrne said she typically only factors in movie times and convenience when selecting a theater, but said the new chairs were alluring.
Right now, the Amherst theater is still operating on the standard general admission ticket system. But that will change within the next few weeks, Noonan said. Seats will be sold like for a Broadway show, and patrons will buy seat-specific tickets.
Customers will be able to buy their reserved seats online as well as at the box office.