I recently attended an advance screening for a big movie where we were assigned specific seats. Oftentimes, those of us on the press list get to sit in a reserved section, or a dedicated row inside a theater to keep us from the unwashed masses (who are often times more washed than critics, a notoriously rumpled and dandruffy demo). Specific assigned seats, though, was something new.
It was kind of a disaster. The first problem that arose was that while we were assigned specific seat numbers, there weren’t numbers on every seat. So when I went to my assigned row and started looking for my assigned seat, 12, I walked to where there was a 12 (apparently made with a label maker and stuck to the armrest like glorified masking tape) on one armrest. Was seat 12 the seat with the 12 on the right arm rest or the one with 12 on the left arm rest? No one could say for sure. The two arm rests to the right and the two to the left of the 12 had nothing on them at all. Left without an usher to mediate, I made my best guess.
The other people filed in and as the house lights went down, I didn’t have anyone on either side of me. Score! I have broad shoulders and try to avoid sitting directly next to a stranger so I don’t have to try to scrunch my back so that my elbows are narrower-than-armrest width for an entire movie. Then, just as the opening credits were playing, a couple of Johnny Come Latelies started to make their way down the row with popcorn and soda. Now they would have to try to find their assigned seats, in the dark, in a theater without clear signage, while a movie was playing.