Lost in Assigned Seating

“Excuse me, pardon me. Pardon me, excuse me.” These were the phrases my husband and I heard Saturday night at the Regal Cinema in Mount Pleasant, SC as patrons climbed over seated movie-goers after realizing they were in the wrong seats. At the same time other patrons stood still mid-stairway studying their tickets as they tried to figure out how to find their seat. The comment, “I’ve never done this before,” was exclaimed more than once.

Eager to see the new Judy Garland movie, Judy, starring Renee Zellweger, we went online, checked theater times and chose our seats in the theater, all from the comfort of our home. New to Regal Cinemas here in Charleston, but not to us as recent expats living in Amsterdam just last year, is choosing assigned seats in a movie theater, whether online or in line.

In The Netherlands movie-goers have been choosing seats as far back as 24 years ago when we first lived there, maybe longer. I remember choosing seats on our first excursion to the movies in The Hague during our first expat assignment overseas. I was more than impressed and even a little excited with the European movie experience. Way back then, theaters had wine and beer and fancy coffee on offer to drink inside the theater, along with the usual popcorn, candy and soda. You wouldn’t find ginormous fountain sodas and endless popcorn refills though, cause Europeans just don’t eat like that. Even now, you can choose between salty and sweet popcorn, in very normal (small) sized bags in Amsterdam, and you don’t have to have your wine poured for you, like at Regal Cinemas. You’re given a small-sized bottle and a fancy plastic glass (which I prefer) to take in the theater and pour on your own.

Arriving a bit early, as I always like to do, we made our way past the very long ticket line outside where other eager movie-goers were searching on a screen through plexiglass choosing seats. You can tell this experience is new and time consuming to those who’ve never done this before. We happily made our way to the quicker line inside to have my husband’s phone scanned with our tickets. After purchasing our libations and treats, we found theater number 12 and our seats in row F, numbers 14 and 15. No scanning the theater for two seats together, no haggling for someone to shove over a seat, no anxious, nerve-wracking hopeful wandering up the stairs to find a place up high to watch the movie, this is great. Living in Europe has given us an edge in the new and improved, though seemingly difficult to some, US movie going experience.

As the trailers were ending and almost everyone was seated, I turned to my husband with libation in hand and giggled, “Can you imagine if we hadn’t lived in Europe and been through this assigned seating situation?” He said, “Yeah, you’d make us be here at least an hour early to examine the seating chart so you wouldn’t be lost in the theater.” He is so right.

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