How to pick the perfect movie theater seat, get best viewing experience (2024)


Choosing the right seat in a cinema can greatly impact your movie-watching experience. Renowned director Christopher Nolan prefers to sit near the front, in the middle of the third row for cinemascope ratio, and slightly behind the center line for IMAX theaters. Experts suggest sitting in the center of the room, aligned with the screen, to centralize your field of vision and prevent strain.

How to pick the perfect movie theater seat, get best viewing experience (1)

When it comes to enjoying a movie in the cinema, the choice of where to sit matters. Do you just pick any seat, or do you have a preference for the perfect spot? Science has something to say about this. Even renowned director Christopher Nolan recently talked about seat selection.

Nolan shared, "When I’m in a theater with a cinemascope ratio, I like to be right near the front, in the middle of the third row. When I’m in a stadium-style IMAX 1.43:1 theater, then I actually prefer to be slightly behind the center line, right in the middle—just a little further back." While Nolan's choices are based on personal preference, experts tend to agree that being a bit further back can lead to a better experience.

So, what's the secret behind choosing the best seat in a cinema hall? With different theater sizes and formats available today, from cozy luxury formats to massive IMAX screens, how should you choose?

Joe Muto, head projectionist for Nitehawk Cinemas in New York, suggests, "I’ve always felt the obvious best spot to sit in a movie theater is in the center of the room, aligned with the screen. This positioning centralizes your field of vision and prevents strain from catching details on the far left or right sides of the screen."

Choosing the second or third row from the back also has its advantages, particularly in terms of sound quality. Muto adds, "You have the optimum placement for surround sound, and your ears capture the full impact of all the speakers working in harmony throughout the theater."

Brian Bonnick, chief technical officer for IMAX, agrees, mentioning that the IMAX system offers a consistent experience across seats. However, even he follows a specific pattern when selecting a seat in an IMAX theater. He notes, "I tend to sit about two-thirds of the way from the screen, centered. It's just a habit that I've developed."

While filmmakers and film tech experts may have varied opinions on the ideal seat, there seems to be a consensus that the second or third row from the back, along with seats in the middle, offer an exceptional viewing experience. Filmmaker Meghna Gulzar shared her preference during a screening of "Raazi" in a Delhi theater, asserting, "Always the second-to-last row. Never the last."

These prime rows are so popular that some cinemas withhold them until just an hour before the show. So, if you're aiming for the best seat in the house, remember to target the second or third row from the back and aim for a central position.

Here are some additional tips for selecting the optimal seat:

  • Avoid front-row seats for uncomfortable viewing angles.
  • Steer clear of corner seats to ensure a balanced audio experience.
  • Opt for seats farther from the screen for comfort in posture, eyes, and neck.

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( Originally published on Aug 29, 2023 )

How to pick the perfect movie theater seat, get best viewing experience (2024)
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