If you're going to pay for a trip to the movie, you may as well get the best seat you can. So, where is that seat? According to the way most theatres are set up, it will be two-thirds of the way back, in the centre of the row. Photo by Blondinrikard Fröberg.
As THX's director of global technology Steve Martz explains to Vulture, technicians test the sound and video quality in a theatre while it's being built by taking microphone measurements from several spots in the seats. While the goal is to make the experience the best for every seat in the house, the closer you can get to where they tested, the better your seats will be. This typically means you'll want to be in the centre of the row, about two-thirds of the way back from the screen.
This bundle of microphones includes a "primary microphone" that is used to set playback levels, speaker timing, and other parameters that require a single location for measurements and calibration. To get the best possible sound, you want to sit as close as possible to where this mic is positioned: About two-thirds of the way back, in the center of the row. "THX designs every seat to be a good seat, but most people would do well to sit near the primary microphone position," Martz notes. "And then spread out to other areas as the cinema gets full."
Of course, many people already gravitate towards this area naturally anyway (engineers didn't just pick that spot at random). If you want to cut down on competition for the best seat, try finding a theatre that uses reserved seating.