Quick Guide To The Best Seat In The Cinema

May 4, 2018 11:55 pm Published by 1 Comment

Research shows that most cinemagoers book their cinema ticket on the same day as the showing, but which cinema seat do you go for? Which is the best seat in the cinema? A question which no doubt crosses everyone’s mind when booking a cinema ticket. Do you go for the seat at the back? An aisle seat so that you can go to the toilet quicker during an epic 150 minute film?

If I’ve not pre-booked my cinema seat tickets … this is normally how¬†the conversation goes with the box office.


Int. Cinema – Night:


“2 tickets for … , please”

Box Office Attendant:

“Yup, where would you like to sit?”



(Awkward silence) …



However, does anyone go pre-knowing where they want to sit? And if so, does this go any further from the “errrm, middle.” scenario?

For me, the situation continues with the onset of beading sweat running down my brow as I feel a sense impatience from the 10 couples immediately behind me, who also want to choose a seat and be forced to re-mortgage their property for a bag of salted popcorn. — however, I decisively reply with : ” somewhere in middle?… ”

During this article I’d like to explore the criteria of a “what is a good cinema seat?”. I’m not suggesting that I’ll have the answer but thought it would be fun to at least investigate.

Let’s start off with the non scientific method, what do I base my seat selection on?


1) big picture and viewing angle – you don’t want to be off to the side, too far to the front – hurting your neck – or too far to the back , whereby your vision is mainly the exit signs and the supporting walls.

2) good sound – it’s all about the experience.

3) aisle seat? If the film is longer than 2.5 hours – I’m going to have to take a trip to the little boys room at some point. I don’t want to disturb other, so aisle seat – with the additional leg room, is great!

3) optional – cup holder, leg rest, … and far enough away from the heavy petting and chewing of food (maybe VR is the way forward after all!) …


What does the data say?

Well in 1938, John Scott Russell, an Scottish Engineer, wrote an article about the concept of sight line – from the performance to the audience. The article discusses that good seats had the better sight line and bad seats had worse sight lines due to being too far away or too being too close. These rules have even been applied to the Emery Theatre in Cincinnati, which is considered to be acoustically excellent.

Since then, there have been a number of studies – but one in 1990, conducted by Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers completed a review and set standards for patrons. The study sets 2 critters, similar to the ones listed above:

Criteria 1: comfortable viewing angle.

The guidelines states that the maximum angle from the viewer to the top of the screen should not exceed 35 degrees.

In fact, there’s an article, from USA, that I found regarding a lawsuit against a cinema chain for failing to comply with the American Disability Act. The article discusses the fact that there are a few accessible rows at the front that provide wheelchair access, but do not give the same unobstructed views and levels of comfort as the rest of the screen.

Criteria 2: Picture size.

So, we’ve established that you can be sat too close to the front. What about being too far back? Well, that has the same impact. The guidelines suggest that the horizontal viewing angle should be at least 36 degrees.

So that’s all about the picture. What about the sound? There’s nothing better than sitting there listening to the Hans Zimmer waaaaarrrrmmmmmm bass sound, it all adds to the cinematic experience.

From what I can find , it seems that the sound engineers collaborate the sound about 2/3 back from the screen. As the sound is equalised , from left to right, you want to sit slightly off centre in order to enhance the sound effects.

To put this to these theories through a social test, the diagrams below show seats that were booked at mid night , the day before the following day’s 730pm and 830pm showing of The Avengers: Infinity War. Please note that I wasn’t intending to buy a ticket for one!!

So what do these show us? Well, it’s a very small sample of an uncontrolled group but, in my experience of cinema bookings, the seats in the middle, towards 2/3s of the way from the screen are some of the first to go. This tends to be closely followed by aisle seats, from those wanting increased leg room, to make a quick exit or to make little fuss when going to the toilet!

It also shows that not too many people book their cinema trip in advance – maybe there’s some research about MoviePass here…

As explained at the start, I doubt that this article has drawn any type of conclusion of the best seat – everyone has their own preferences, each screen in each cinema is very different but I hope that this has given you food for thought when answering the question: “Where would you like to sit?”

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This post was written by noxford

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