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Monday, April 24, 2006

The Importance of a Movie Theater Website

Searching for a movie this weekend, I cursed my way through yet another painful online experience dealing with AMC Theaters.  The main problem, in their case, is that I know their brand and I have been to their theaters.  And because I do, I have higher expectations from AMC.  For one, I assume the theater's website would be easy to find so I skipped Google to go to www.amctheater.com.  Wrong.  So I tried www.amctheatre.com.  Wrong again.  Frustrated, I finally went to Google and typed in AMC Theater, to find the website was www.amctheatres.com.  The other two sites are not in use, but for sale - I can only assume AMC is too cheap to pay for them.  Not a great first branding impression.

As I arrived at the site, I was greeted with an extremely confusing interface pushing lots of things I don't care about, like free popcorn.  Seriously, sell me that stuff when I get there, not online.  Just get me to my theater for showtimes.  They would know that if they asked any of their customers.  The saga continued when I discovered the hard way that booking a ticket online doesn't work reliably with Firefox - luckily, I could use the Firefox IE plugin to get around that issue.  Still, you would think a brand like AMC would be able to get their development team to fix that.  Ultimately, I made it through to the order screen and started the process of getting my tickets.  The last time I was on the site, I signed up for the MovieWatcher club.  But apparently it takes 4-6 weeks to get a number (not the card, just a number), even though I can get approved for a credit card in 90 seconds.  Big bummer.  So I left that field empty, while thinking to myself that I've never belonged to a loyalty program for a brand I believed less in.  Finally I made it to the last step, and submitted my order, only to get an error page saying the site was experiencing technical difficulties and I should try again in an hour!  Um, my movie starts in 45 minutes - so that's probably not going to work for me. 

So we jumped in the car after wasting 15 minutes and made it to the movie theater with five minutes to spare.  At the theater, my experience was the polar opposite.  I bought my tickets at an automated kiosk in less than 1 minute. I could purchase popcorn there too, and walk in to pickup without waiting.  And I made it in before the previews started.  Inside the theater the seats were modern and comfortable and the quality of picture and audio was perfect.  The in-person experience was everything I wanted it to be.  Unfortunately, I almost didn't go because of the barriers I experienced online.  With the struggles of movie theaters, you would think the customer experience on AMC's website (and every other movie theater) would be a higher priority for them.  After all, for most people isn't that where the decision to go to the movies usually starts?

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Comments

Hi Rohit,

I hope you didn't spend the rest of the weekend writing this blog post! (by the way, I think it might be interesting to hear how long your wonderful, custom-written posts take you... they're great.)

I agree with you-- all too many times there are buttons missing on my local Los Angeles movie sites and they're just too darn hard to find. I sometimes have to search the 'net for the website. And why don't the smart businesses buy mulitiple sites in case someone doesn't know how to spell? When I registered my domain name, www.organizingla.com, my tech expert (who was british) forced me (yup) to also register www.organiSingla.com -- in case the Brit's logged on. It was worth the small amount of money Go Daddy wanted. And it's been really, really smart for me (well, him...)

So back to my story-- LA has a new standard for movie theaters-- it's called the Hollywood Arclight and you will never be the same again. Large hallways, very upscale crowd. A restaurant, great service and even special deals for frequent movie-goers. Their site is beautiful, but there's one problem, I can never seen to "find" the button to purchase tickets. It's there but it's 8pt font size in ariel condensed and it against a powder blue background. They need to get a button in there. You can see the site here: http://www.arclightcinemas.com/homepage.jsp

Take care.

Hi John - I've actually been to the Arclight in LA and had a great in person experience too (though their website does seem to fit the same category as AMC's). There is lots of evidence to suggest that what you're saying about movie-goers seeking more custom experiences is true. The ArcLight in LA knows their audience well, and makes the movie experience an upscale way to spend a night out. For other theaters, the niche might be to make it easier to take kids to the theater. Regardless, as consumers continue to gain control of how they watch entertainment, the theaters that survive will be the ones that provide a start to finish experience that is worth getting out of the house for. As for time spent blogging - hmm, that's a great idea for a new blog post topic ...

Hi Rohit,

As someone who has worked for several theatre chains over the years, I'm curious about your statement on AMC's website, saying that customers were only interested in getting showtimes.

Do you not think it is smart for AMC (and other theaters) to advertise their concession specials, free offers, etc., in order to please every group, not just the 'adult' crowd? I have seen large families specifically choose one theatre over another one, simply because the theatre was offering a great deal at the concession stand. We all know that the popcorn and candy is horridly over-priced, and as the economy continues to be a factor in our lives, people every where are shopping around for the best bargain.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this...

Thanks,
Heather

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