The Power of the Comfy Chair: An Insider’s Look at Premium Seating

By Bruce Proctor, President, Proctor Companies

A mere 10 or 15 years ago, cinema seats were reminiscent of the hard wooden seats used in performance halls since the days of vaudeville—heck, since the days of burlesque in the Old West. Sure, some padding had been added, but the seats remained small, nonadjustable, and well short of comfortable.

Plop yourself down in an auditorium seat today and you’ll experience something completely different. You’ll be wrapped in wide, plush, leather-clad comfort. Ample armrests, reclining mechanisms, extending footrests, large cup holders, and even swiveling eating surfaces help create your personal movie-watching domain. You own it. You can settle in, scrunch up, or lie back to your heart’s content.

Luxury seating in the cinema industry emerged with—and is a necessary component of—in-theater dining. But who, a decade ago, would have dreamed how impactful luxury seating would be? Who would have thought that cutting an auditorium’s seat count in half could double revenue? Yet that unlikely scenario is exactly what we’ve seen play out across the industry. All hail the comfy chair!

So now, as an owner, you’ve filled your auditoriums with luxury seating. You’ve made changes to your back-of-house to support in-theater dining. You’re seeing more customers, and they’re spending more money.

But is that enough? Are you still leaving money on the table? If you haven’t applied the same seating considerations to your lobby, lounge, bar, and restaurant as you have to your auditoriums, the answer is probably yes—because comfortable, inviting seating not only encourages customers to enjoy these spaces but it induces them to settle in and hang out. And, as we know, the longer they stay, the more they spend.

“The longer they stay, the more they spend.”

For every project Proctor Companies undertakes, this is the guiding mantra for the front-of-house design, where your brand is most noticeably on display and where receipts, free of revenue sharing, make a bigger impact on your bottom line. We believe optimization of these spaces is the next evolution in in-theater dining. And, as in auditoriums, seating is the key.

At first blush, front-of-house seating choices may seem simple: just point to a product in a catalog and choose a quantity. But there are myriad other factors to consider. Will chairs and stools need to be moved or reconfigured? If so, are they heavy, do they fold or stack, will they scuff the floor? How durable is the seating? Can it be repaired if damaged? How stain-resistant is the fabric—how difficult is it to clean? Can coverings be easily changed to reflect a new color scheme or new design?

And what if there is no off-the-shelf product that fits the need at all? What if a custom design is required for your banquettes or loose furniture? What at first appears like a fairly straightforward decision-making process quickly becomes complicated with seemingly endless options.

But with professional advice and guidance, your front-of-house seating choices will strike the right balance to maximize your revenues and bolster your margins. That’s why, when we begin seating discussions with our clients, we tell them, “Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Boxoffice Staff

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