My frustrations with movie theaters in the US

So, today I finally saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the movies. I may write about my thoughts on the movie on another post, but I wanted to share with you some puzzling aspects of how movie theaters work in the US and why they frustrate me.

We (me and my partner) went to the session at 1:40 pm. It is the opening weekend, but since a couple of days had past (because they moved the opening night from actual midnight session to basically early Thursday night, it had been 4 days since movie officially came out), I figured a day session wouldn’t be super crowded, even if it’s the weekend, so I didn’t purchase tickets in advance. Boy was I wrong: as soon as we walked to the line, I saw the sign that says low seating for our session. When we went to buy the tickets, we were told that the only seats available were at the very front. To my surprise, this particular session was assigned seating. We got two seats from the second row, and proceeded to go in. Because the previous session hasn’t left, we were told to go into a line, of which we were the first, but it didn’t matter because of the assigned seating.

So here’s my frustration: where I am from, all seats are assigned seats. The common practice in the US is the opposite: you don’t get a particular seat, you just purchase a general admission ticket and sit wherever is available. For those sessions, if you arrive early and get on the line, you can get good tickets. For some sessions though, they also apparently do the assigned seats. Google doesn’t say whether it is assigned seating or general admission, it just shows the movie times. To figure it out, I would actually have to go to the movie theater’s website and find out. But because it is so rare, I never really check it. In this setting, we ended up with bad seats because of this bizarre system.

The movie theater policy should either be always general admission, so I know that in order to get good seats, I would have to arrive early. Or it should be always assigned seats, so I know that I can purchase my good seats in advance, and I’ll do so. This mix of most of the time general admission but rarely assigned tickets is worst of both worlds. Even though I arrived early, because they sold assigned seats online and I didn’t check, we ended up with bad seats. This bizarre policy requires so much more additional planning and thinking ahead for such a simple activity as movie-going. Movie-going should be fun and shouldn’t require a whole bunch of additional brain-power from my end. It should be straight-forward, and it definitely isn’t. And makes it much less consumer-friendly.

Another frustration I have is that there are no intermissions/breaks in the movie theaters in the US. Modern movies (especially block-busters like Star Wars) are so long! They are at least 2 hours, and easily extends to 2 and a half with all the ads and trailers. We definitely need a small break to stretch our legs, go to the bathroom, maybe hit the concessions. This last part is what puzzles me the most: they can make more sales from the concession if only they put a 10 minute break in the middle of the movie. I understand that having no break allows them to air more movies, but if I know a little bit of economics, the money maker at the movie theaters should be the concessions, not the actual movie ticket itself. Do let me know in the comments if you have seen studies about it or know about it from a practice perspective (working at the movie theater or something).

Anyways, I know this is kind of a rant and I probably should have checked beforehand for a movie as big as Star Wars, but I still think the system here is kind of broken. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Istanbul Solo Variant

Istanbul is one of my favorite board games. In it, you are a merchant trying to make it through the grand markets and bazaars of Istanbul by pushing around your wheelbarrow, picking up and selling goods, and collecting rubies. Whichever merchant reaches 5 rubies (6 in a 2-player game) wins the game.

What I like the most about it is that even though there are some interactions between players, it is mostly parallel play. Therefore, it is not super competitive, there aren’t much in-your-face, take-that kind of mechanics. And I think this allows for a good solo variant.

So here is the setting: let’s have an AI character that moves according to a bunch of rules: I’ll call him Travelling Merchant”. The point of the solo variant is to defeat the Travelling Merchant. He can travel across the board easily and isn’t bound by the rules of moving one or two spots from his current spot. That’s why he’s called Travelling Merchant.

So the solo variant is actually a typical two-player setting. Here are the rules that the AI follows, prioritized from top to bottom:

  • Whenever he has 7 liras, he immediately goes to the Wainwright and collects a Wheelbarrow extension in the next turn.
  • Whenever he has enough resources, he immediately goes to the Mosque and collects the tile that the resource corresponds to, in the next turn.
  • Whenever he has enough resources, he immediately goes to the Sultan’s Palace and collects a ruby in the next turn.
  • Whenever he has enough liras, he immediately goes to the Gemstone Dealer and collects a ruby in the next turn.
  • If he can’t do any of these, he moves by rolling the dice. The tiles are organized by the big, red numbers and he moves to the number that’s rolled with one exception: rolling 7 makes him move to one of the warehouses instead of the Fountain. Whichever resource he has the least, he moves to that one. If some of the number of resources are equal, prioritize the resources from top to bottom as seen in your Wheelbarrow.
  • He moves to the Fountain when he runs out of Assistants. He leaves an assistant wherever he goes, just like you.
  • He knows the owner of the Tea House, so he just rolls the dice and collects the number of liras that the dice shows.
  • He also knows the owner of the Caravansaray, so he just gets two bonus cards. He either uses them immediately (like 5 lira card or get a good card), or whenever he can (like do the Post Office action twice card).
  • At the Small/Large Market, he sells as many of the resources as he can.
  • If he’s trying to go somewhere and there’s another merchant there that he has to pay, he goes to the police station and sends his family member instead, if he can.
  • He always pays to the Governor and the Smuggler 2 liras to keep a card or a good, if he can. Similar to the warehouse, he always prioritizes the goods that he has the least when using Smuggler. If he can’t pay them, he discards the cards that he can’t use immediately or exchanges the good that he has the most with the good that he has the least, if the number of goods are all equal, he doesn’t use the Smuggler.
  • For the mosque tiles, the use of red and blue tiles are obvious. For the green tile, he always uses it to get the resource he has the least, if he can (if he has 2 liras). Yellow tile is kind of useless, so you can either assume he only gets it to collect the mosque ruby, or you can still use it, if it seems like it will benefit the Travelling Merchant (when he needs to go somewhere immediately the next turn but he runs out of assistants).

One note I have is that the Caravansaray is kind of tricky. Because of the probabilities he’ll roll 6 a lot, so he’ll go to Caravansaray a lot. Some of the cards are useless to him (like don’t move or move 3-4 tiles cards), but taking two cards is supposed to balance it out. However, if it seems like this Caravansaray mechanism is not working, the 6 roll can be assigned to other tiles. Similar to the assignment of 7 to warehouses, 6 can be assigned to markets. He may go to the market where he can sell the most goods.

So this is the general idea. See if you can beat the Travelling Merchant! If you have any questions, do let me know in the comments!