Dangerous assignment

The Century Riverside 12, considered by many to be the last grownup local movie theater since Reno hasn’t really had an arthouse in nearly two decades, recently joined ranks with all the mall-adjacent megaplexes to start doing something abhorrent: selling assigned-seat tickets.

It was probably only a matter of time. The Riverside, which opened to much hullabaloo 20 years ago, is now owned by mega-chain Cinemark—as are Century Park Lane and Century Summit Sierra and more than 500 other theaters throughout the world.

Selling assigned seats doesn't serve customers. Moviegoers should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want to sit behind the woman in the tall hat or next to the 900-pound man who smells like he just came from a fish-packing plant. Instead, they have to have “Excuse me, sir, I believe you're in my seat” conversations in theaters where the seat numbers are barely visible to begin with.

Why are the theater owners and managers doing this? Because it helps them. They want to force moviegoers to buy their tickets months in advance so that they can gauge interest and plan in advance how long to keep certain movies and how much—or, more accurately, how little—staffing they'll need on any given night. So, get used to planning your dates three months ahead of time.

“Well, dinner is going great, so let's not rush it. We'll skip the next showing and catch the 9 o'clock instead.” Nope! Those days are over. You will be at the theater at the scheduled time and sit exactly where you're told or no Star Wars for you.

Airline travel used to be a classy, enjoyable activity. Now everybody hates it except for masochists with fantasies of being treated like cattle. It's a necessary inconvenience. And little by little, going to the movies is headed that same way.

Except that going to the movies isn't really necessary. Very few of us ever actually need to go to the movies for professional reasons. Going to the movies is entertainment. It's supposed to be fun.

And this is not a great time in history for movie theaters to alienate their audiences. Home TVs look amazing and don't cost much. And there's so much great content on streaming services that rivals or even beats the stuff in the theaters. For example, acclaimed director Martin Scorsese's latest film is a straight-to-Netflix offering. (See page 19 for our review.)

And if you really want to get out of the house for a fun date night, you can skip the movies. Head out to the local live theater productions instead. You can catch first-rate shows and support a locally owned business instead of a Texas-based mega-chain. Some of them even still seat their customers on a first-come, first-served basis.