How do us overweight people handle theater seating?
June 27, 2017 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I am fat and so is my boyfriend. We want to see concerts and plays, but most of our local venues have tiny, uncomfortable seats that leave you holding hands with your neighbors. How do we deal with it?

It is fine if we are touching each other, obv, but I don't want to play footsie with the strange man next to me. Is there a "seat guru" for theaters? Do we just have to buy 3 tickets on the end of a row?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do we just have to buy 3 tickets on the end of a row?

Unfortunately this is the solution my family usually has to use, but bringing a skinny friend for the buffer seat works well too.
posted by CarolynG at 1:34 PM on June 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

This past year, I began using a wheelchair or rollator for long walks, due to a back injury. Through this, I have discovered that nearly all theaters have wheelchair seating. These areas do not have permanent seats, but usually have moveable chairs that are used if the people who book those seats aren't using a wheelchair but have a disability that means they can't go up and down stairs, for instance. In some older theaters I've been to, these chairs are much roomier and more comfortable than the theater seats. Otherwise, they can be removed so that a person can simply use their wheelchair there.

My rollator (one of those walkers with wheels) is also significantly more comfortable than most provided seating in public places. It has a wide padded bench that supports me well and prevents exacerbating my back pain.

When you're booking seats, don't be afraid to look for these accessible seating areas. You can ask the theater if they have chairs in them (theaters for plays etc usually have quite a lot of them and they'll have chairs; movie theaters might just have an empty space with regular theater seating next to it). Even if you don't need a rollator for walking, you might invest in one for seating purposes—I'm not kidding when I say that if I'd known what a difference it would make, I'd have gotten one for my fat self ages ago simply as a form of portable seating (and a handy shelf and bin for hauling things on my way in).

I had a significantly better experience at a certain theater when I decided to go ahead and book accessible seating. One member of my party sat next to me, and two others sat in the regular seating directly in front of us. I had enough room, and didn't have to deal with self-consciousness about crowding the people next to me.
posted by Orlop at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

If you feel at all guilty about using accessible seating when you're "not really disabled," remember that some disability comes from the body and some comes from the environment. It is OK to take steps to accommodate yourself no matter which form of disability (or mix of the two) you're experiencing. If most of the seating in a theater won't accommodate you, it's OK to use the seating that will.
posted by Orlop at 1:41 PM on June 27, 2017 [25 favorites]

I am a (volunteer) house manager for our small town's theater. We have a limited amount of seating for people with disabilities which ranges from "roll in" seating for people in wheelchairs to larger padded seating for people who don't fit in our fold-down wooden seats (as well as other stuff for people with hearing impairments). We also have some box seating areas that are a little bit removed from the standard seating areas for people with sensitivity issues or maybe a fidgety (or noisy) kid.

We have, in the past, had people call to request these spaces and it's actually my pleasure to connect people with accommodations that help them enjoy the theater experience. Most public places in the populated US (and my town has 4500 people so it's not micro but it's not metro by any stretch) should have some sort of accommodation available and staff who have been trained well enough to not make a thing about people requesting accommodations. There is always the odd eyebrow-raiser but I like to think they are the exception and not the rule. It's totally appropriate for you to inquire about a seat you can fit into comfortably.
posted by jessamyn at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2017 [18 favorites]

Scrutinize seating charts. Sometimes you can buy a little extra legroom, at least, by purchasing seats that don't have other seats directly in front of them. This can be the case at the far right and left sides of traditional theaters, where the rows get wider as the venue's walls grow farther apart toward the back of the room. I know width is the key, but in my experience if you're going to be crammed in width-wise it is quite helpful to have room to stretch length-wise.

Try contacting the venue ahead of time and ask what they'd recommend for maximum comfort. If you're lucky, they may have certain seats that at least have armrests that you can lift out of the way, which should buy you at least a couple of inches of extra room as you press up against your boyfriend. And, yes, often times Yelp reviews and the like will give you an indication of how tight seating may or may not be. Check Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google reviews, and also scrutinize the theater's website — I just bought tickets to a show after finding a note in the theater's FAQ about which three rows in the entire house were the most comfortable. You're not always going to find helpful hints, but sometimes you can get lucky. I also find that doing a Google image search for the venue and checking out the seats can give you an idea of how tight or not they are likely to be.
posted by Mothlight at 2:35 PM on June 27, 2017

If you have an AMC with "Dolby cinema" theaters or a Cinebistro near you, they have roomier recliners that come in pairs, set off a bit from the other pairs of recliners. Probably other chains have some version of this, but those are the ones near me. Seating is reserved and the tickets are a couple bucks more than in less fancy theaters. Generally only the newest/ most popular movies will be showing in these, so they're not always going to be an option even if you have one near you, but they give you a lot more space.
posted by the primroses were over at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2017

On reread, I see that you are discussing handling specific venues with tiny seats, so my comment was tangential at best. But, at least for movies, maybe you have some leeway with location choice.
posted by the primroses were over at 3:14 PM on June 27, 2017

I like theaters that have pre-assigned fancypants seating, like iPic. I think maybe Alamo Drafthouse is the same? You get a nice wide comfy reclining chair and lots of elbow room (plus drinks and food delivered to your seat during the movie! I love this).

Maybe see if iPic has a location in your area?
posted by joan_holloway at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2017

Theater person thrilled you want to go see theater here! Ask to speak to the box office manager or the house manager.
posted by athirstforsalt at 3:50 PM on June 27, 2017

I'm 6'5", I sympathize. I don't know of a general Seat Guru for Theaters, but there are some specific resources. Specifically Theatre Monkey for London and a couple of seating charts for New York: Playbill or Broadway World.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 PM on June 27, 2017

Depending on whether the seats have fixed armrests or not, you might feel more comfortable in a seat at the end of a row? I am fat too and feel your pain! I have not figured out a way around it other than trying to avoid the cheap seats up in the 'gods' which tend to be narrow.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:03 AM on June 28, 2017

If there are several venues in your area that you might be interested in repeatedly attending, it might be worthwhile to invest some time in researching what seating options work best for you for each. In my town, there was one venue where I was fine in the orchestra but could not sit in the balcony because the seats were like one vital inch smaller. In another, I needed to buy accessible seating (the kind that is a chair.)

Don't go through Ticketmaster or the like initially - contact the venue, talk to the accessibility people, and potentially see if you can go on an off time and test-sit a couple of sections to see how they work for you.

The first time I bought accessible seats I was all worried that I'd get into some kind of trouble or something - like "your standard seats pinch a nerve in my thigh and it's horribly painful" wasn't a legitimate reason to need a different seat - but everyone I dealt with was lovely and it enabled me to go and enjoy the theater!
posted by oblique red at 2:12 PM on June 29, 2017

« Older I was unfairly (IMO) forced to resign? What...   |   Old House, New Fireplace Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.