How to choose prime seats in a movie theatre

When blocking seats for a movie night out, seat location is pretty much planned. The short ones choose front rows; commentators, snorers and lovers hopefully fill the back; those with kids and weak bladders take the aisle. But all is not subjective. For a few, finicky about their movie experience, movie-going is a study in getting the best out of their two hours. Some insights, if... :

You are an aspiring film critic:

In a Time magazine articleChicago Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert says observation tells him film critics prefer the front row. Film historian David Bordwell explains why: because he likes “scanning the frame in great saccadic sweeps and even sometimes turning [his] head to follow the action... CinemaScope and Cinerama give your eyeballs a real workout." Ebert personally occupies the outer aisle seat from where he can watch the movies diagonally.

For the best audio experience, the sweet spot is "two-thirds of the way back from the screen, a seat or two away from the exact centre." Reuters

You are right-handed (which you most likely are):

This means you have a left-hemisphere "dominant for language". Japanese neuroscientist Matia Okubo found that this also means you are likely to choose seats on the right side of the cinema screen — that is when you are kicked about the movie in question. Research Digest further says that "in right-handers, the right-hemisphere is dominant for processing visual and emotional input. By sitting to the right of the screen, the film is predominantly processed by the right-hemisphere and the suggestion is that, without necessarily realising it, right-handers are choosing to sit in an optimal position for their brain to digest the movie."

You are a sound connoisseur:

For the best audio experience, says the Discovery Channel website, the sweet spot is "two-thirds of the way back from the screen, a seat or two away from the exact centre." The reason: "most sound technicians, who test and calibrate the theater's sound system for the best effect, adjust audio levels from that part of the theater. Since the left and right speakers are usually equalized, you want to sit just a bit off-centre to take advantage of the stereo effect."

You are a 3D buff:

For best 3D experience, you'd think the best spot is somewhere to the centre of the theatre and never the sides, from where images tend to get quashed. And certainly not the front, where things get a little blurry. 3D is all about grabbing the prime seats. And Stereoscopic Supervisor for the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Robert Neuman, informs us how to locate them:

"Picture the screen having a 30'degree cone coming out of there. You kind of want to be within there. The best is going to be in that 30 degree cone. And you want to be back within that cone at least one screen width or more back within that cone. There are varying degrees of quality."

You happen to be at an IMAX theatre:

At an IMAX theatre — there are very few in the country — the normal rules may not apply. That's because IMAX is film format with different proprietary cinema projection standards; it can record and reproduce images of far greater size and resolution than conventional film systems.

A blogger who took great pains to figure out the best seats from James Cameron's 3D masterpiece Avatar by watching the film from many angles, finally concludes on his blog:

"For a true IMAX screen, I found 5 rows from the top is very good... It optimally puts the whole screen in your field of vision, without requiring you to move your neck side to side to see what’s on the left and right... For all intents and purposes, the top of the IMAX is analogous to the centre in a regular theater. So anywhere in the back is good."

If you have any observations of your own, share with us in the comments section.

Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Nov 29, 2011 13:33:42 IST

Also See