The main problem we are trying to address is that we have become popular to the extent that for a few films we have had insufficient seats for all who want to join us. Initially this was not significant enough to warrant us having to turn people away as some of us stood, left, or sat on tables. But one time even that was not enough to avoid us having to send people away. Some of those people believed that we were favouring friends or annual subscription holders; this was not the case but it was a perception that led to bad feeling and complaints.
For some years we have included notice that doors open 30 minutes before show time in our publications. In the past we have not enforced this for people who arrived early especially when the hall set up was completed. But this resulted in people coming at the advertised hour only to find that all their preferred seats were already taken; so they then came earlier subsequently. And so on until we received complaint.
We cannot open earlier as set up often takes the full 90 minutes that we have from the time that the previous hirer leaves the hall. In the past we have tried advanced online seat reservation but this was discontinued – partly as the additional cost was unwanted, partly as the administrative overhead was more than volunteers wanted to commit to, and partly as it disadvantaged a significant number of our audience who don’t have access to the internet or prefer not to use online payment facilities.
As people become aware that there is no benefit in arriving before the advertised 'doors open' time this problem will diminish, but we have to be firm to maintain the policy.
There are two other problems that need to be addressed: one is that active volunteers’ preferred seats were being taken – even when clothing was left there. There are not so many perks to volunteering that this could be overlooked so we have introduced reserved seat cards.
The door sheet lists the names of the active volunteers of the evening against a number and the hope is that these signs (especially when fastened to the seat) will be more of a deterrent to the would-be seat usurper. The number would allow us to trace the ‘owner’ should the card become detached from the seat.
The other problem is that people wanting to sit with others in a party of friends or family don’t always arrive at the same time and so would they used to unofficially reserve seats by laying clothing on all they need (and sometimes a little more); thus late comers were getting prime seats to the frustration of those who arrived sooner. To partially address this we have introduced a reserved seat card.
These cards may be taken from the door guard in exchange for the name of the person for whom they are wanted together with the entrance fee where not an annual subscriber. When the named person arrives they may come past any ‘Full House’ sign and get in after giving their name to the door guard. Any unused seats at the interval become available to others at that time.
The entrance fee is paid when the card is issued so no further payment is due on arrival. The person who has a seat reserved needs to know that they are the subject of a Film Friend seat reservation as otherwise the door guard will take a second entrance fee from them.
Note that annual subscription payment is a financial benefit to frequent attendees but confers no entrance or seating priority.