Marketing is a very powerful tool if used correctly.
Sometime during the week of Thanksgiving, I received an email from AMC. The email invited me to a screening of a new movie experience for one of their locations that is scheduled to open on Dec 3, 2012 near the So Cal Marina.
The subject of said email? ‘Free Screening and 50% Off Appetizers‘
Word? You can best believe I clicked on that email and read. Sure enough, on Nov 30 and Dec 1 they were showing free movies. And we’re not talking about Gigli, Hudson Hawk, or anything by Steven Seagal. We’re talking about good, recent blockbusters.
The list was as follows: Ted, Trouble with the Curve, Looper, Dark Knight Rises, Hope Springs and The Bourne Legacy.
But that selection of movies was far from my favorite thing in the email. My favorite thing….was ‘Free’!
Perfect. Gives you nothing to lose. Then on top of that you take half off appetizers, which turned out to actually include the entire menu at half off as well, except drinks of course (yes, they have a full bar in the theater).
Having seen Ted and Dark Knight Rises, not having a clue of what Trouble with the Curve is, figuring Hope Springs sounded like a chick flick, and having no desire to see the new Bourne movie, I opted for a movie I wanted to see but didn’t get a chance to when it was in rotation….Looper.
I sign up for the 8:00 show on Friday, Nov 30 and print out my ticket.
After work on Friday I was tired from a long week at work. I wrestled with the idea of not going to the theater. Plus it was a rainy day in so cal. I wasn’t sure how the set up would be and would I be sitting in the rain while waiting.
Ultimately I decided to not be a lazy bum and go live a little. It was a movie I really wanted to see and I could see it for free and be one of the first to experience this new way of watching films.
I get to the Marina pretty early thanks to some surprisingly light traffic. The theater is in a mall that is under serious construction so I had some trouble finding the theater. I could see it from the street while driving but walking to it was somewhat like walking through a maze.
I finally found it and as I walked through the door, there was a “greeter” at the front door. This isn’t usually the case at AMC Theaters. I thought it was a nice touch.
Her words: “Hello, welcome to AMC. Basically, all of the movies are free today and tomorrow. You just step over to our Guest Services section and get your ticket. All you need is your I.D.”
Great. I thanked her and went over to wait for an available teller. I noticed the crew was much more friendly than most others places I had been. Perhaps they were newly employed in a wicked economy and were just happy to be working.
After maybe a five minute wait I was signaled over by one of the tellers who had a smile on his face. These people are working on a rainy, Friday night. Amazing they were able to be so happy about it.
Him: How are you sir?
Me: Good. I would like to see Looper.
(He puts his head down and starts pressing buttons on what looks like a touch screen on his end)
Me: Do you need the pass?
Him: Yes, do you have it?
(I don’t think it was mandatory but maybe whoever did the marketing would get credit. I gave it to him)
He asked for my I.D. You have to be 21 or over to get in to the theater. Then a diagram comes up on the screen on my side. It’s a diagram of the theater.
Him: Ok sir, in front of you there is the auditorium for the 8:00 showing of Looper. The seats in Green are available. Which seat would you like?
I looked at him as if he were the greatest person I’ve ever met. You mean I can pick my seat? At a movie theater? This is unreal.
I picked a seat in the second to last row but in the middle of the auditorium. He prints me a ticket which includes the showtime, movie and….wait for it….assigned seat. How awesome is that? You don’t have to try to get in early to get a “good seat”. Your specific seat is reserved for you. Here’s my ticket.
What to do? Went over to the bar. Yes there is a bar in this particular AMC that not only has a full bar, but also has it’s full menu. The ambiance is what you’d expect if say 300 or Lucky Strike also showed first run movies.
That blurred woman on the right side of the top picture is the essence of life, as we humans live in a state of non-existence as we move so freely from one space to the next in our extremely hurried lives.
Ok, I’m lying. She’s blurred because my iPhone doesn’t take great pictures when any of the subjects are moving.
Anyway, I go to the bar and there is an HD TV showing the last 30 seconds of a close basketball game. You have the option to order your food/drink and eat in the lobby, or order inside and they bring it to you. I decided to wait until I got inside to get the truest essence of this experience. Near the bar, I just stood and watched the end of the game.
I counted four employees behind the bar who asked me if I needed help. It didn’t bother me at all. I thought it was great. Better to “bug me” than to not help me at all. All were very friendly.
During a commercial break, a gentleman came up to the bar to order a drink. He stood pretty close to me so I heard him order a whiskey. He had stood behind me thinking perhaps I was waiting to order a drink at the bar. When I turned to him, smiled, then moved aside to let him know I wasn’t waiting I got a good look at him as he walked up. I went back to watching the screen.
Here was the bartender….
This is relevant because of the next part. After the gentleman ordered the Whiskey, I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the bartender above ask the gentleman for I.D. Here’s the gentleman who ordered the drink….
I swear this man fought in WWII. I couldn’t believe it! But the craziest part is that the gentleman didn’t flinch, say a word, or object. He simply took out his ID as if this was the 15th time this week he had been carded.
In fairness to the young newbie, I get it. AMC has never served alcohol before and that will probably be a huge part of their revenue. They don’t want to risk losing the liquor license. Employees are probably trained to card everyone (more on that later). But come on. I don’t think anyone looking at this man would have second-guessed the young bartender if he let this one slide.
After the ID card asked for around the world, I started to get hot. This was a general theme in this theater. I think it was the club mentality of keeping it warm to make you order a drink. The movie was free for crying out loud. You don’t get to experience this for free AND be comfortable.
I stepped outside and played with my beloved crappy picture taking when people are moving iPhone. Around 7:30 when the guy who gave me my ticket told me they’d be seating, I went back inside to head to my seat.
I get to the ticket guy who is a skinny “urban” dude with short hair. He was very friendly with other guests as I could see his facial expressions as I walked up. I get up to him and say hello. He says hello. My mouth almost drops open. He is actually a she!!! I spent a few minutes to myself being happy I didn’t walk up and say “hey what’s up man”. But she was incredibly friendly and unbelievably professional so she was cool in my book.
She took my ticket and asked me for ID. I thought this was odd since the guy that gave me the ticket asked for my ID. Theoretically, I couldn’t get a ticket without showing ID so I thought it was kind of redundant. But no problem. I took my ID out, showed her, she thanked me and told me which auditorium to go to.
I walk into the auditorium and there’s an “usher” who looks at your ticket and escorts you to your seat. While I understood the idea of being friendly and not leaving you to be lost, I thought this was also unnecessary. There are six rows, A – F, with A starting in the front row. Not exactly Staples Center here. Yet, I still got that this was about service not necessarily common sense.
The usher walked me to my seat and informed me the tray attached to each seat opens out as he showed me a demonstration. You have to pull your tray out in order to get to your seat. Here was my seat….
I sit in my seat and look around. I am shocked by how different and amazing this stuff is. I’ve been to AMC many times and this was a bit of a culture shock. Instantly, I felt almost like a celebrity.
The first thing I noticed was how much room there was between my seat and the row in front of me.
That’s my leg in the corner as I sit in my comfy seat. I thought that was an AMAZING feature to put that much space between rows. You literally could not have your seat kicked by the person behind you, even if the theater is at full capacity.
I noticed a few waiters in the aisles and they were talking to customers and taking orders. This was my waiter as she spoke to someone in my row.
Her name tag said Yael and I know probably all of you pronounced that Yale, which is exactly what I did as well. But that’s not correct. As she tells you her name she puts the emphasis in all the right places, perhaps from years of having her name pronounced like the famous University. Her name is correctly pronounced Ya-el. She was very friendly, very helpful, and extremely accommodating.
I ordered a regular Margarita. I figured it would be watered down but I knew I’d be saving money with food and appetizers being half off. When I ordered my drink, Yael asked me for ID for what would be a third time since I had been there. This was honestly a little frustrating. Yes I understand why. But they need a new system. A wristband? Put a dot on my ticket stub that I’ve been carded. Or my pic in your system so you would know that I’m good. Whatever the case, I got tired of breaking out the same ID for three people.
It should be noted that the menu was a full menu of quite a few options and it was americanized food you’d expect to get at places like Applebees, TGIFridays, or Chili’s.
Yael explained to me the menu, gave me recommendations, and explained the process. Turns out that if I need anything at all at any time, I simply need to press the button for my seat in the pic below (remember I’m in seat 7E)….it’s like having my own personal waiter. Restaurants don’t even have a button to contact your waiter.
Note that the light at the top also doubles as a nice, inconspicuous light during the movie to review your bill, make sure you give them the correct credit card, and sign for your bill. It’s located behind you aligned with the arm rest.
Yael puts in my order and leaves. As I’m settling in, I’m watching the screen and happen to look at my neighbor on my right as something stands out. I had no idea this was possible until he did it.
Whoa! Time out! How did you do that sir? His waiter, who was NOT Yael had come back to him and they were talking. I didn’t want to interrupt. I started avidly looking for the right knob. I noticed pretty much my whole row was reclined. This explained the space between each row, as even with the seat reclined there was plenty of room for anyone including the waiters to walk by. But this brilliant revelation did me no good if I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I didn’t want to ask the guy but also didn’t want to miss my opportunity for extreme comfort. After a minute or two….
Aww hell yeah. That’s me getting comfy in the theater. It’s still hot and I don’t like that but I show them….I ordered an ice water with Yael. A free one. Take that! A few seconds later my Margarita arrived.
I couldn’t help but notice how this felt like being in a room of a wealthy person who had a theater in their home. It looked, felt, and seemed completely different than any other movie experience you’d ever have.
This isn’t a review for the movie, although that will happen on my movie blog soon. By now you should understand the movie experience. Aside from it being hot in the theater and having to show my ID three times (neither were a big deal), the experience was excellent. Oh here was my food.Decent food. Wasn’t the best food ever tasted but hardly the worse. The experience itself kinda overshadowed the movie. It takes through about half of the movie to remember this is a movie theater and ultimately that’s what you’re there to watch. You’re paying attention to everything else because it’s so new.
I highly recommend this experience if you’re near one. Turns out there are several other Dine In locations across the country; more than I thought. The Marina location is the newest one and the first to reach California.
To get more info on this new experience, click here.
- AMC to open dine-in theater in Marina del Rey (latimes.com)
- AMC brings its first dine-in theater to L.A. (latimes.com)
- AMC Opening Dine-in Theater in L.A. Area (snspost.com)
- AMC debuts in new markets by buying Rave Reviews theaters (bizjournals.com)
- Dinner + Movie (inkshrink17.wordpress.com)
- AMC Theaters Adding In Theater Dining (fox2now.com)