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AMC reversal: Students of all ages get discount

Talk about a box office flop.

AMC Theatres has scuttled a proposed age restriction on student discounts before it ever got off the ground.

Until further notice, full-time students in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond can continue to buy $2-off tickets right along with younger students.

The chain had planned to limit the discounts to students up to age 25 beginning Friday. But a persistent Palm Harbor woman and some bad press apparently gave AMC second thoughts.

Traditionally, anyone who presented a valid student ID was entitled to the discount. But about a month ago, seniors and students who asked for their regular $2 admission discounts received a brochure along with their tickets. It announced that, as of July 20, people wanting senior or student discounts must present a special AMC MovieWatcher card that designates them as a senior or a student.

So far, so good.

But buried in the brochure's fine print was this little nugget: Student discounts would be limited to people between the ages of 13 and 25.

Palm Harbor resident Debbie Dreschnack, a 51-year-old full-time doctoral student at the University of South Florida, reads fine print.

On her way to see Pearl Harbor at Oldsmar's Woodlands Square 20 last month, Dreschnack read the brochure and hit the roof. Dreschnack majors in aging studies and figures that remembering Doris Day and Rock Hudson shouldn't eliminate one's status as a student.

She argued with Woodlands management and got nowhere. This was national policy, she was told, as applicable to Sun City Center as to suburban Seattle. So she complained to the St. Petersburg Times, which published a story about the policy on June 22.

In that story, spokesmen for Regal Cinemas and Muvico Theaters, the Tampa Bay area's second and third largest movie chains after AMC, happily reported that their student discounts would remain open to people of all ages.

Michael Stover, manager of St. Petersburg's BayWalk 20 complex, even sent Dreschnack four free Muvico passes and a letter that foreshadowed the competitive implications of AMC's proposed age restriction.

"I was shocked after reading the St. Petersburg Times article about your incident at AMC," Stover wrote. "We here at Muvico BayWalk 20 want to offer you a great alternative."

A week or so later, AMC's marketing department quietly reversed its course because of "negative feedback" from several regions of the country, spokesman Rich King says.

New MovieWatcher brochures should hit AMC theaters this week, he said. They will explain how everyone can earn discounts on concessions and movies after buying a certain number of tickets. Seniors and full-time students will also need this MovieWatcher card to get their regular $2 admission discount.

But students of any age can qualify.