I have found it quite fascinating how movie theatre chains have been stepping up their game to try to enhance the movie experience.
Not only do we have VIP experiences where we can enjoy a yummy meal during a movie, but in certain theatres, even the non-VIPs can watch a movie from comfy recliner seating.
I also appreciate the option of buying tickets ahead of time, and to not have to worry about last-minute availability, back-up plans or getting booted out of my seat by some self-entitled Mr. Bossy Pants who arrives ten minutes after the movie started and insists on disrupting an entire row of people to be seated with his friends.
But for me, the comfy recliner seating alone has been the incentive to return to the theatre more often, to the point of nudging me to get a cozy recliner at home to level the playing field.
That was until a few weeks ago when these wonderful enhancements to the movie theatre experience backfired on me.
On the day in question, the moment I sat in the movie theatre recliner, my sensitive back could feel it right away. The recliner was broken. The seat was leaning to the left.
Anybody who has ever experienced back issues can tell you that sitting in a chair that is leaning just a few degrees the wrong way is a recipe for disaster.
I pushed the button to see if the sensation would disappear in the reclined position, but unfortunately it didn’t. Not only did it feel like I was watching the movie from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I knew that the recurring disc issue in my back might not handle sitting in that unbalanced position for two hours.
With no time to waste, I went to the concession stand and inquired if there was a chance we could change our seats. Unfortunately, it was an almost full house and our only options were to take the front row, the back row, or two separate seats the row in front of us and to ask people to move so that we could sit together.
The plan D that they offered was to send someone to check it out, which I enthusiastically accepted since we were running out of time and options. To my great delight, it wasn’t more than one minute after I returned to my seat that someone showed up.
However, the young chap who was swiftly dispatched to check my movie seat was probably less than half my age and probably never experienced a back issue.
When I asked the fellow, “Do you feel it leaning to the left?” he politely and respectfully responded “Well, maybe, a little” which I felt loosely translated to “I’m sorry, not really”. Either way, it wasn’t his fault.
After shaking the seat and trying the reclining mechanism a few times, he apologized and said that all he could do was report it to management. Given that we were out of options, the remaining vacant seats had been filled and the movie was about to begin, I decided to let it go and hope for the best.
I grabbed my leather jacket and folded it, origami-style, into a wedge cushion. I was hoping that would compensate for the left-leaning seat, to have me sitting in a straighter position and not awaken the sleeping lion of my disc issue. I think Martha Stewart would have been proud of my craftsmanship.
The movie was so captivating, I wasn’t aware of any back issues during the screening and thanks to my DIY wedge cushion, I was pretty comfy.
But the minute I stood up, I knew that the damage had been done from being out of alignment for two hours.
When I got home, I did all of the stretches recommended by my chiropractor in the hope that I could offset any serious flare-ups in the coming days. But the next morning, I knew that things weren’t right.
I made an extra effort to work out that week, for an extra dose of mobility exercises to help balance things out (… or to use the scientific term, to potentially “jiggle things back into place.”) I also reached into my chiropractic tool box for all of the tricks I have learned over the years to deal with flare-ups. But the twinge in my back persisted and was sucking the “get up and go” out of me.
By Thursday, it was time to wave the white flag and get a chiropractic appointment for Friday or risk a weekend in pain. Fortunately, my chiropractor was successful in getting things back on track as I felt immediate relief. I guess that being in pretty good shape and working out regularly saved me from a more serious back issue.
In the week that followed, I sent an email to the movie theatre to share my story and to express my disappointment with the broken seat. They responded with a complimentary movie pass and popcorn, which, in the moment, seemed fair. But has the seat been fixed?
As much as I love the reserved seating option, this is the part that is unfortunate. When it’s a full house, there is really nowhere to move to if a seat is broken. The same can be said if you have the bad luck of being stuck around someone who can’t stop talking, who can’t put down the phone or whose cologne is burning your nostrils or causing migraines in the four corners of the auditorium.
Theatre chains need to be better prepared for mitigating issues than with a free movie pass, a free popcorn or a refund.
If the additional comforts to the movie theatre experience are intended to draw people away from their streaming services and big screen TVs, then the movie theatre chains should be able to back up those investments with measures to ensure their clients’ continued comfort from arrival to departure and contingency plans if something goes wrong.
If that’s not part of the package deal, then I will be far less inclined to take a chance and to risk my back health.
And given how quickly some movies go from big screen to streaming service, staying home and watching movies from the comfort of my own cozy recliner is not a horrible alternative.
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