The Hulk, Marvel Comics
Hubby and I were thrilled to learn that we had scored preview tickets to see The Avengers in IMAX 3D, courtesy of our favorite neighborhood newspaper, The Village Voice. We are huge Marvel and Stan Lee fans, and loved Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Thor. When we received our passes, they clearly stated that the film would start at 7pm, first come first seated, and that no electronic recording devices would be allowed in.
So in true urban line form, hubby got to the AMC Empire 25 Times Square Theater around 4pm and was about 20th in line. By the time I arrived at 4:30pm, the line was moved from next to the building to next to the street, and there were thirty people in front of us. Now, that's fine as hubby waited for me, but what wasn't fine was that, in the end, standing in line didn't matter. It was all about the power play of the AMC security team.
Around 4:45pm a man in a black suit with dark sunglasses (I kid you not) came out to tell us that they would be taking our passes and giving us bracelets. Then someone else came out and wrote numbers on our bracelets, telling us that this would let them know what order we came in, since they would not allow people to save places in line after 5pm.
When they let us into the theater lobby around 5:30pm, the men in black inside the theater told us we couldn't come in yet, which led to crowding and more anger as they called each other and finally let us up, to yet another line. But this where they split us into two groups — those with cell phones and those without. And then started to admit people regardless of when they arrived and what number was on their bracelets. Hubby and I were ready to go all Bruce Banner on them, especially after we checked our phones, were wanded, went into the theater only to discover that not only were two prime rows marked "reserved" despite the 'first come, first seated' policy clearly stated on the pass, but that once inside people could save seats, even though we could not save a spot on line.
Now, luckily The Avengers is so much fun and so awesome to watch that once the movie started we were swept in, amazed, and amused enough to have a great time. The effects are phenomenal, the banter between characters witty, and the story simple enough to easily follow without being stupid. So why do they have to make the preview experience so hateful? We actually cut out before the final scene in order to avoid yet another long line to pick up the BlackBerries, and the men in black almost made us wait for everyone else to leave since they clearly did not approve of our early departure.
I understand security, and I understand the importance of maintaining copyright on a very expensive film, but I have some ideas for how AMC can improve the preview process:
- Don't say the preview is 'first come, first seated' if that isn't really the case. We could have come at 5:30 or 6 and been fine.
- Putting the rent-a-cops in black suits with the sunglasses is really not necessary. They feel more powerful and special and lord it over your audience, many of whom are reviewers and writers (hint).
- Do not make a big deal about bracelets and numbers when they don't actually matter.
- Please remember that you are not doing the audience a huge favor. Coming early means people take time out of their day to see the film, so often we lose more money than the $35 we would have spent on two tickets. Plus you sold plenty of retail and food items to the audience.
- Make it easier to get in and out. A two-hour movie should not need to be a six-hour event due to your lack of organization.