As airplane seats get narrower, shallower, closer together and even unable to recline, movie theater seats are getting fatter, deeper, further apart and increasing their reclinability. Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have picked up on cinema chain AMC's $600 million investment to re-seat some 1,800 of its theaters (out of 5,000 total), providing absurdly posh recliners at a cost of $350,000 to $500,000 per venue.
Yes, as airlines are seeking ways to cram more seats into their fuselages, AMC's re-seated theaters will actually decrease capacity. With seats being bumped up from 44 inches wide to 60 inches wide, and with full reclinability including elevating the legs La-Z-Boy-style, rows will need to move further apart and will be able to fit less bodies per row.
The motivation is financial. In a trial run conducted earlier this year, AMC saw ticket sales increase by 60% in the re-seated venues. Even with less capacity, this is hoped to lead to increased profitability, assuming moviegoers can swallow the $1 to $2 ticket price increase that the seats will eventually bring.
The question for us was, who designed/manufactured these new seats? Are these custom jobs for AMC or off-the-shelf? Unsurprisingly neither of the aforementioned newspapers mentioned it, since no one gives a damn about our profession. But by poring over the Journal's shots and comparing them to hundreds (okay, dozens) of product photos from companies that make home theater seating, we tried to uncover the source.
We came close, but failed. At first the posh seats appeared to be the handiwork of Seatcraft, a California-based furniture company. The stitching pattern, proportion of the cushions, and armrest corner radius revealed in the Journal's shots appear to be dead ringers for Seatcraft's Barcelona line. Take a look:
Alas, after closer scrutiny, the comparison starts to break down:
AMC Enterprises is currently owned by a Chinese parent company, so it's always possible—heck, these days it's likely—that these seats were made overseas and reside on some website I can't search in English. But if any of you ID'ers reading this find these seats more than just familiar, please do drop a line.