Arclight Follows Bush’s Lead, Owns up to Errors

Despite the glowing reception oft bestowed on it’s other accoutrements, the Arclight’s track record with online ticketing has always been less than stellar. Well, the shit must’ve really hit the fan over the last couple of weeks because Arclight CEO Christopher Forman just sent an email to members saying, in essence, “we know our site blows:”

As CEO of ArcLight Cinemas, I am excited by and proud of the movie-going experience we as a community have created. The high attendance levels during the holidays suggest that you and others appreciate that experience. And we continue to receive media recognition, including a recent segment on the Today show and the David Denby article in the current New Yorker, excerpted below.

I am, however, frustrated that we have not been able to fulfill consistently our promise of a hassle-free experience. During the holiday period and this past weekend, there were a number of malfunctions on the ArcLight Hollywood website (www.arclightcinemas.com). I experienced problems, and you may have done so as well. I want to apologize for any inconveniences or frustrations our website caused you.

Offering a unique website that allows you to pick your seats, print your tickets at home, and receive membership points is complex. We are aware of the limitations of our current site and infrastructure and are diligently pursuing solutions. Although we expect significant improvements to be made soon, we do not have an exact date on which they will be in place.

In the meantime, I can say with some certainty that our website operates well at non-peak times. Generally, by Wednesday we have placed on sale tickets for the coming weekend. If you are able to purchase your tickets any time other than Fridays before 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., you should avoid the recent difficulties.

Please know that we are fully committed to providing a superior movie-going experience, one that is comfortable and hassle-free. We are not deviating from this promise. I thank you for your continued patience as we work through our current challenges.

This isn’t the first time that they’ve promised improvements, so I’ll hold off on being excited until they roll out a site that, ya’ know, works. Instead, it sounds more to me like they have no idea what the hell they’re going to do.

14 Replies to “Arclight Follows Bush’s Lead, Owns up to Errors”

  1. Yeah, and those very same companies also allow you to print tickets at home and accrue membership points for it. Two things that the Arclight seems to think are rocket science. I’d love to know who their web development company is.

  2. Hahahaha! Pilot Pete, I was about to write the exact same thing.
    Let’s just say, I’ll have a wait and see mindset when it comes to these “improvements”. But it still doesn’t stop the problem of having to go to the arclight to buy tickets with your fingers crossed.

  3. um, those other sites are run by mega-billion dollar corporations and the tickets they sell cost hundreds of dollars or more. Also, I don’t think they are in a hurry to give away their code.

    Everybody is an expert, until they actually try to do something.

  4. I wouldn’t guess that JetBlue is a mega-billion dollar corporation, and it’s not like Pacific Theatres is a tiny mom-and-pop operation, but I see your point. I can’t speak for the other people, but I’m mostly just poking fun.

    And to be clear, what bothers me isn’t that they didn’t come out of the gate with a great, robust system. It’s that they’ve been limping along on a terrible, malfunctioning system that everybody knows is broken for years and have gotten to the point where they’re sending letters to their consumers asking them to schedule their ticket buys in advance while promising, yet again, that they’ll fix it and failing, yet again, to give any kind of timeline. How long or how many poor executions are they allowed before we’re allowed to make fun of them for it?

  5. Tim: It’s just coding. Hell, they could go to rentacoder.com and hire some Russian kids to do what they need to do. It’s not brain surgery — it’s inventory management. Small businesses around the world manage that every day.

  6. Not to get off topic, but Lee, when you go to rent-a-coder and hire low-budget 3rd world programmers, you end up with exactly what they have – a non-scalable, barely functioning site.

    My pet peeve is their new seat picker is written in Java. WTF? Do it in DHTML or even flash…

  7. I’m less forgiving. I was there this last weekend, and it was a nightmare.

    Problem #1 is their website, for obvious reasons.

    But they don’t have onsite contingency plans to deal with this, which is a more easily solved problem that they failed to do. The CEO doesn’t address this, which is convenient, because if he did he’d have to blame people for not doing their jobs instead of software.

    When I arrive Saturday night, all of the parking entrances were backed up at least a block. Fortunately, I found street parking.

    Lines at the outdoor kiosks were backed up to the opposing wall, and stretched further out. It didn’t help that two of the kiosks were down, but this is the norm.

    Ticket lines inside were all backed up out the door.

    Part of the problem is that every 7pm show was sold out… but since people couldn’t find out as the website wasn’t working, and the customer service lines weren’t being answered, they just kept arriving.

    Customer service lines were also bad, but also the best place to pick up prepurchased tickets. However, they had one guy standing IN THE MIDDLE of the other staffers with a handwritten sign that said “Validations Only”. This pissed me off as a sign of overall incompetence – his placement put his sign out of sight, so nobody even noticed he was there, and so he was just twiddling his thumbs while the rest of the place was a madhouse.

    The Arclight, as great as its been, has made no efforts to improve since it opened, and, in fact, incidents like this depreciate the experience more and more each time I go. Its no longer reliable, and hardly worth recommending since all to often I hear of people who have problems with the website on a regular basis.

    This isn’t even mentioning that they’ve had fewer and fewer exclusive screenings and q&as lately, instead going with $25 tickets for a run of Dreamgirls.

    The CEOs letter was weak – I’m glad he addressed that there was a problem, but blaming it on a computer was weak, weak, weak.

  8. I build websites, and I can sort of guess what is happening here.

    On the business side of things. they probably didn’t have a big budget for this system. Even though they may be owned by a larger company, this is specific for thier Los Angeles customers. Not the entire country, say like MovieTickets.com. When you think about the market for movies, Los Angeles is big, but it’s not bringing in the type of sales that a national audience would bring you.

    With that said, they probably have some non-web savvy lead from the theaters managing the whole project. And the inexperienced, albiet cheap, web company they hired probably had to under bid the project, quickly realized they were in over their heads, and built a shoddy, half assed reservation system.

    My guess is, Arclight has been a in back and forth battle to add enhancements to a system that’s not very expandable to begin with.

    It’s served on windows and was built with ASP, ugh. If they had built it on a unix system with PHP 5.0 and a mySQL backend. It would be a much better system.

  9. Oh, how many times have I heard a webbist say, “That could be done in a couple weeks.” only to see nothing or a kludgy mock-up months later. I just don’t think it is that easy to DESIGN and BUILD a functional data-base driven web site. Get commitees involved and clients that don’t know what they want and you’re in for a long ride.

    Watch out, especially, for glib technicians who throw around three letter abbreviations. That frequently leads to starting from zero when he finally dissappears.

    I don’t do it myself, but I have watched this process enough times to know.

  10. can this site go a week without someone posting about the arclight? jesus.

    No. It’s a clause in each of our multi-million dollar contracts.

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