I don’t know about you, but when I go to a crowded movie, I prefer to sit on the aisle; not to allow me easy access to concessions or the men’s room or to expedite my exit during the credits, but because it guarantees that I have at least one armrest that I won’t need to worry about hogging (or be quietly angry at the person sitting next to me for hogging). But could the War of the Bumping Elbows be ended by changing the design of theater seats?
Kotaku reports that designers at Jiangnan University in China have come up with a proposed theater seat design that they believe will give ample room to the elbows of neighboring moviegoers.
By arcing the row in a certain way, it puts adjoining seats in a position where two people can theoretically share the armrest because on viewer is always slightly further back than the person next to them.
It’s an interesting idea, and it’s been given a Red Dot design award, but I see some problems with this idea.
1. All Elbows
Look at the image above and you can see that the designers present a very idealized pair of moviegoers. Both people in the diagram are politely only resting their elbows on the armrests, thereby maximizing the amount of room for the other person. While the person using the front of the armrest could possibly get his entire forearm on the rest without hogging any additional space, the person in the rear has no choice but to elbow it. If you’re willing to go elbow-only, two people could likely fit on a standard armrest without the arc.
And if the person using the rear portion of that armrest sits down first and gets her whole forearm on the armrest, there is still little to no room for the person who arrives to the movie later.
2. Retrofit Nightmare
You could build a theater to fit these seats and their particular arc, but it looks like this would be problematic to squeeze into existing movie theater structures, especially those with stadium style seating.
An older theater with a floor that is merely sloped could, in theory, just have the old seats removed and replaced with these arced rows, but theaters with stadium seating generally have floors that are stepped for each row. Thus, those steps would need to be redone to conform with the arc, which seems like a mammoth expense for the sake of some elbow room.
3. No Best Seat In The House
Another theater design issue for anyone wishing to install these seats: While this design relies upon an arc to preserve elbow room, the only way to ensure that everyone in a row has this armrest space is to not allow the arc to flatten out so it can reverse direction. Otherwise, those seats in the middle will have no arc and will not enjoy the special armrest.
Look at the below image and you’ll see that the only way to fit these seats into both the left and right sides of a theater is to gut the middle and replace it with an aisle. To many movie buffs who insist on viewing a theater screen from the center of a theater, this is a huge problem… unless they’re allowed to bring in their own folding seats and camp out in the aisle during the movie.