Premium cinema seats spark row over Égalité

Premium cinema seats spark row over Égalité
Photo: whatleydude/Flickr
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – except when it comes to a night out at the movies, it would seem. A cinema in Paris has caused a very French scandal by charging extra for ‘premium’ seats. One outraged politician called it "segregation" on Thursday.

In recent weeks The Pathé Wepler cinema in the 18th arrondissement of Paris has been offering film-lovers the chance to pay an extra €2 to kick back and enjoy the show in the comfort of a well-placed armchair in the centre of the cinema, thanks to its ‘Premium’ ticketing system.

The premium recliners are reportedly six centimetres wider than the normal seats.

Cinemas in the UK and the US have long operated a premium service but a local Socialist politician in Paris finds it unacceptable in France.

For Jean-Paul Huchon, the project is driven by a “principle of segregation".

Huchon, president of the regional council for  Île-de-France, vowed on Thursday that he would personally write to the management of the Gaumont-Pathé group, to express his “outrage” at what he considered an injustice, particularly at a time of economic crisis.

“Equality of access to culture is unique to France, and it works rather well,” he was quoted as saying in left-leaning daily Libération. Paris Communist Party politician Ian Brossat also took umbrage at the "scandalous" scheme accusing the company of introducing a "two-speed" cinema.

Despite the opposition, the scheme is set to be introduced to multiplex cinemas in Paris and Caen in the near future.

For its part, Pathé explained the move by saying it is "responding to the requests of some of the customers". The company refutes the idea it is introducing a "first class" or "two-speed cinema", calling the option of premium seats a "diversification of offers".

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