There are a couple things that make going to the movies in Japan different from in the US. First and foremost there’s the price. General admission at just about every first-run theatre in the country is a whopping 1,800 yen (US $18.40).
Helping to take a little bit of the sting out of that, though, is the fact is that all seats are reserved. There are two advantages to this system. First, you never have to deal with the annoyance of one guy, sitting by himself, who’s saving the dozen seats prime seats next to himself for his friends, who will totally be here any minute.
Secondly, the seat a person uses can reveal things that give you a glimpse into their personality.
Recently, psychologist Hiromi Mizuki shared her theories regarding how the workings of a person’s heart and mind affect their choice of seat when going to the movies. Mizuki breaks the screening room down into the six sections shown below. We’ve summarized her thoughts, while offering our own humble hypotheses as well.
Section A: Center of the theatre, screen directly in front
Mizuki’s analysis: As the screen is easiest to see from this location, people who choose these seats are confident and decisive. Lending evidence to this theory is that since these seats are traditionally considered to be the best available, grabbing one means getting to the theatre early or reserving your tickets online ahead of time, both of which show a certain amount of vision and planning skill. This kind of person goes after the things he wants in life directly, and likes to be directly involved with important situations.
Our take: These people have weird taste in movies, and often end up watching films where there aren’t enough paying customers to take up every seat in the most desirable section.
▼ “Dude, midnight showing of The Blood of Heroes! You in?”
Section B: Back of the theatre, screen directly in front
Mizuki’s analysis: As these seats provide a wide view of the entire theatre, people who find a sense of security in being well-informed tend to congregate here. Even if the people around them are getting caught up in the moment, people in Section B feel it’s important to remain calm and objective. However, they are also somewhat timid and afraid of being influenced by others, so they subconsciously remove themselves from the center of the action.
Our take: These moviegoers are single, and sitting in the back of the room gives them a great vantage point for scoping out any attractive members of the opposite sex they want to hit on in the lobby after the movie ends.
▼ If you want to avoid this, however, we strongly recommend a better icebreaker than, “So, see any good movies lately?”
Section C: Front rows, screen directly in front
Mizuki’s analysis: Because these seats fill your whole field of vision with the screen, people who choose these seats have a desire to be constantly connected with others. They like lively events and take pleasure in being around other sociable people. If their friends ask them for help, they’ll do whatever they can. In general, they tend to be understanding and forgiving of others.
Our take: People sitting here got to the theatre late, and all of the seats in Sections A and B were already taken. Must try harder.
▼ “See, Tanaka? Now all the good seats are taken! I told you we shouldn’t stop to play a whole game of cricket on the way over.”
Section D: Middle rows, off-center
Mizuki’s analysis: People in these sections can maintain a moderate distance from the screen and are often near the empty space of the exit walkways, which gives them the buffer zone of personal space that they crave. When making friends, they gravitate towards people whom they can feel relaxed and comfortable around.
Our take: Theaters in Japan serve draft beer, and more high-end multiplexes even offer wine and hard liquor. With Hollywood blockbusters often clocking in at around three hours in length, though, you might need to make a bathroom run before the third act climax starts. If you’re the kind of person who likes a stiff drink to get fired up while watching your action films (or to drown your sorrows after Bambi’s mom dies), Section D is where you want to be.
▼ Damn you, hunters…
Section E: Back corners
Mizuki’s analysis: These are the seats where you’ll be least noticed by other people in the theatre. Moviegoers drawn to these seats want to know everything that’s going on, but don’t have the self-confidence to take on the extra responsibilities that come with being directly involved.
Our take: Starting from the same observation that these seats will most leave you out of prying eyes of others, we arrived at a more life-affirming conclusion: People in these seats don’t care about the movie, because they just came to have a dark place to make out in. The rascals.
▼ “Turn off the lights, already!”
Section F: Front corners
Mizuki’s analysis: These seats offer the worst view of the screen, even though they’re the same price as any others in the theatre. People who choose to sit in this section simply accept being inconvenienced, and the people they deal with in their daily lives may take advantage of their weakness.
Our take: Our first instinct was to assume they all snuck in after the movie started, but theater-hopping is pretty rare in relatively scrupulous Japan. We’re guessing that people in Section F want out of their romantic relationships, but lacking guts to come right out and dump their partners, are trying to provoke a fight that will lead to a breakup by sitting in the seats most likely to cause an irritating and painful neck cramp.
▼ Next stop, Section B!