I love the movies. But after my sister and I were turned away on three different occasions from our movie of choice (La La Land, Moonlight), I was forced to face a new reality: the reclining seat. Embracing the reality of change has never been my strong suit.  

From September through December (when most Oscar-buzz movies are released), I might be called a movie buff. I study the season’s output, attend anything noteworthy, go into critic-mode, and predict outcomes. Overly zealous, I can be a bore to non-enthusiasts. When I lived in Seattle, my friend Steve shared my love of movies. We had a standing date on Friday nights for cocktails, dinner and a movie. For sixteen years, out-of-town trips were the only excuse tolerated for missing our Friday night ritual. Around the holidays, when all the hard-core contenders appear, we ramped it up to twice a week. Our movie dates comprise some of my best memories of Seattle.  

I haven’t been fortunate enough to find a like-minded movie partner in Buffalo, so it’s catch-as-catch can or go alone. But I still love going to the movies—the big screen, coming attractions (my fave), movie-house popcorn and, now, I have the privilege of accompanying my grandsons, which harkens back to movie matinee days with my kids.

Availability has been the key. One need not make plans to attend a movie - pick one and go.

However, with the advent of recliner seating, fewer seats are available in the theater. What to do? Corporate America is all about profit so, in addition to a predictable increase in movie prices came an unforeseen and unpleasant reality—the dreaded reservation. To secure a good seat at a popular movie showing during prime time (weekends, discount nights, holiday or award seasons) a reservation has become mandatory. No more grabbing your purse and spouse, friend or grandchild on a rainy afternoon and rushing out the door to go to the movies. Log-in to your computer, choose a seat, pay the on-line fees to reserve a ticket, and wait your turn to go to the movies. If it’s a new or particularly popular release, or a weekend, make the reservation days or a week in advance. The possible exceptions are matinees, but still no guarantees and never on the weekend for a kid’s movie.

When seats are available (most weekday matinees but again, no guarantees) and one takes the risk and attends without a reservation, the lines try the most patient (of which I am not one) of us. Before they can pay for their movie, customers must choose their seat. Oh! the heart-rending discussions that can evolve over a movie seat! And, while I’m standing in line, I'm missing previews. Then, it’s our turn at the window. The teller points at the computer screen and whittles down our choices: all we have are singles (fine—no one should chatter at the movies) or the only seats left are in the front row (not an option—headaches and motion-like sickness ensues).

I’m retired so I have flexibility in attending movies. Recently, my daughter and son-in-law hired a babysitter and scheduled a hard won movie date night only to be denied entry into their first three movie selections. My son drove fifty miles to take his preschooler to a matinee. No seating available when they arrived. Explain that to a three-year-old. And, what about the not-so-tech-savvy patrons among us? Is their movie-going coming to an end?

If reservations had been required, Steve and I would have seen fewer movies and spent considerably more money seeing them. What happens when you’re held up at work or in traffic (a very real problem in Seattle) and dinner is all you have time for? Popcorn for dinner? Or one of you gets sick? Last minute occurrences are not built into the new concept.

I wholly approve of recliner seats. According to the Mayo clinic, nothing less than disease leading to early death is associated with long periods of sitting. It is especially egregious for the elderly. While it is not all day at a desk, watching a movie entails two to three hours (with previews) of sitting. Taking a break or getting up to stretch is verboten in the middle of a movie, so having one’s feet up is the next best thing.

At the same time, I am beginning to wonder if recliner seats are worth it or, bite my tongue, can I say it? If the movie theater experience is worth it. Home screens are getting bigger and flatter. Hmmm, maybe give up living space and create a designated screening room in my home?

But then, I make a weekend reservation, well in advance, for my choice of a four star, award-worthy movie. I take my seat and push the button. My feet go up and my back nestles into firm cushiony comfort. Coming attractions begin. I plunge my hand into a big bag of buttery popcorn, and I am home—at the movies.

What are your thoughts about this trend?