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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Theater experiments with reserved seating option

Chelsea Purgahn

Movie-goer Austin Kosk purchases a ticket at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar Monday afternoon. Alamo Drafthouse locations are currently in a trial phase to give customers the option of reserved seating.

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is known and loved for its laid-back and cool atmosphere. However, over the summer, it began implementing reserved seating at several of its locations. By making this change, the Drafthouse may be evolving in a way that risks the experience that has brought Austinites back to the theater time and again.

Currently all but one of the Alamo Drafthouse locations are running a “trial phase” of reserved seating. Reserved seating allows customers to choose their seats when they purchase their movie ticket online. The earlier people purchase their ticket, the better the seat options they have. The Alamo Drafthouse at the Village has already switched to reserved seating in lieu of traditional methods at the same price. However, the Ritz, Lake Creek, Slaughter Lane and South Lamar Drafthouse locations offer the option of reserved seating for a $2 surcharge as part of the trial phase. Each theater saves 20 or fewer seats per feature for those who would like to pay the surcharge to reserve their seat beforehand. By paying the surcharge, people can choose the exact seat they want online and their seat number will be printed on their ticket.

Alyssa Padilla, English sophomore and self-proclaimed movie junkie, does not think that the Drafthouse should make this a permanent change at all their locations. She said it changes the easy-going energy that she loves about the Drafthouse. “If people want good seats, it is their responsibility to arrive early,” Padilla said. “Reserved seating gives off a sense of formality that I think goes against what the Alamo Drafthouse stands for. The reserved seating option with the extra charge is understandable, but there is no need for everyone to have to reserve their seats beforehand.”

Manager of the Alamo Drafthouse at South Lamar Alexander Hiers said that they have received mixed reactions regarding the change. However, the number one reason the theater began the trial was that many customers thought reserved seating would help the flow and experience at the Alamo Drafthouse, Hiers said. He added that the Alamo Drafthouse is dedicated to giving its customers the experience they expect and deserve. If reserved seating can help improve customers’ experience, the Drafthouse is willing to give it a try.

“Alamo [Drafthouse] prides itself on having [its own] culture at each theater,” Hiers said. “Thus the decision may vary theater to theater. Although at the same time, we are growing so much [that] we are trying to become a little more uniform at all of our locations. It is very much trial and error right now. Some people love it, and some people don’t understand why we went with it. They’ve been coming for years and if they really care, they know they have to get here early to get a good seat.”

Kylee Slough, international relations senior and Alamo Drafthouse frequenter, said that she would prefer reserved seating to become routine at all Alamo Drafthouse theaters. “I studied abroad in the spring, and in Japan that is policy at all of their theaters,” Slough said. “I prefer it because you are guaranteed a seat with your friends, and who wants to go to the theater with friends and then have to sit separately?”

Alamo Drafthouse employee Harold Fisch said he thinks the idea is a good fit for the theater, which is rapidly growing and constantly evolving.

“You have to remember it’s not just a regular movie theater but a restaurant too,” Fisch said. “I don’t think it’s any different than making reservations at a restaurant. Just because someone has reserved a seat doesn’t change the service we provide. Everyone still gets the same service regardless.” According to Fisch, they have not heard much negative feedback about the matter at all.

Reserved seating or not, the Alamo Drafthouse is a cultural monument in Austin. For now, at four of the Drafthouse locations, customers are left to decide whether they would like to reserve their seats online beforehand for a surcharge or just arrive early. Opinions regarding the matter are split. This means the Alamo Drafthouse’s decision, which wholly depends on its customers’ feedback, will be difficult.

The theater’s atmosphere has drawn people to the Drafthouse for over a decade. The fact that reserved seating may change is an enormous chance for the theater to take.

Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Theater experiments with reserved seating policy

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Theater experiments with reserved seating option