Movie theaters are hurting. Attendance has plummeted, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Theater-chain stocks have taken a beating.
Could a movie-ticket subscription service come to the rescue? At least four are trying: AMC Stubs A-List, Cinemark Movie Club, MoviePass and Sinemia. Although they share the same basic promise — charge a flat monthly rate for X tickets — they take very different approaches to the subscription model. Let’s take a look at what each service offers and see which one, if any, deserves your dollars.
AMC Stubs A-List
Price: $19.95 (plus tax), expected to increase by $2-$4 starting in January 2019, depending on location.
What you get: Three tickets per week and all the benefits of an AMC Stubs Premiere membership.
Limitations: AMC theaters only. Requires a three-month commitment. There’s no bring-a-friend or family option. No Stubs points earned for tickets booked through A-List.
Summary: AMC’s feud with MoviePass resulted in A-List, its own private subscription service. After rolling out in June, A-List has apparently proven popular enough to warrant a price increase, which will add $2-$4 per month in some states starting early next year. Even so, the value proposition remains higher than that of either Cinemark Movie Club or Sinemia, because your $22-$24 buys you as many as 12 tickets per month.
Worth it? Three tickets per week is probably ample for most moviegoers, and even if you use just three per month, it’s a bargain. The support for 3D, Imax and other premium showings is definitely a plus, but for now you’re stuck paying full price if you want to add a friend or family member. The bigger question: Do you live near an AMC theater?
Cinemark Movie Club
What you get: One ticket per month, 20 percent off concessions, additional tickets for $8.99 each and unused tickets can roll over.
Limitations: Cinemark theaters only, and 2D movies only.
Summary: Announced in late 2017 by theater chain Cinemark, Movie Club offers little compared with MoviePass, Sinemia and Stubs A-List. You’re basically buying a single discounted ticket every month, with the option for additional pay-as-you-go discounted tickets. The rollover option is useful for those months when there’s nothing to see, but if you want anything other than a 2D showing, you’ll have to pay more.
Worth it? In my neck of the woods (metro Detroit), a single Cinemark ticket to an evening show costs $10.50. So paying $9 per month saves me only $1.50. Now, if I bring my family of four, we each pay $8.99 instead of $10.50; now I’ve saved $6. I’m also likely to save a few bucks on popcorn. That’s all fine, but it’s hardly earth-shattering, and not really enough to get me out of the house on a snowy evening. The real issue, though: There are no Cinemark theaters near where I live.
Price: $9.95 for three tickets per month.
What you get: A special debit card that can be used to purchase a ticket at nearly any US theater.
Limitations: Day-of purchases only, some requiring your presence at the theater. Select movies only (for now). No family or couples option. After three movies, customers can receive a $2 to $5 discount on tickets depending on geography and film selected.
Summary: In the past year, MoviePass has experienced more ups and downs than a roller coaster. For a full rundown, read my story on how MoviePass works. The short version: Issues like bugs, blackouts and surge pricing have shown that the company can’t sustain its original model. But it’s making changes — on an almost weekly basis, it seems — and still offers considerable value.
Worth it? If you use your MoviePass just three times a month, it affords a truly unbeatable deal on tickets — even if you have to pay a few bucks for a fourth ticket. Still, much-needed options like 3D, Imax and bring-a-guest have yet to roll out, and they’ll end up costing you even more. Frequent moviegoers might be better served with a competing service with fewer restrictions. The uncertainty over MoviePass’ future (including the last rumor that it might be spun off into a separate company) makes it hard to recommend, though if you’re just paying monthly anyway and can cancel anytime, why not just max out your pass while you can?
Price: $4.99 for one ticket per month; $9.99 for three tickets per month; $29.99 for 30 tickets per month; family plans start at $9.99 per month; $20-per-person sign-up fee (waived with selection of an annual plan). Discounts available for weekday-only plans.What you get: A fixed number of tickets per month at nearly any theater, paid for via a temporary debit-card number supplied by the app. Support for advance ticket purchases. Support for third-party ticket processors such as Fandango.
Limitations: Premium shows (3D, Imax and so on) require an Elite plan, which adds considerably to cost. There’s no rollover for unused tickets, and you’ll have to pay for any additional fees charged by third-party ticket processors.
Summary: Sinemia promises an easier, less restrictive subscription than MoviePass, but recent changes have made things a little more complex. For starters, pricing is all over the place — it seems like every time I check it, there’s a different sale running and a different pricing structure. Your plan used to include one premium showing per month, but now that costs extra. The service also just introduced weekday plans that cost 20 percent less, but limit you to Monday-Thursday screenings. Still, the option to use your favorite ticketing service (and rack up points along the way) is a big plus, even if the app is still something of a hassle to use for advance purchasing.
Worth it? For the occasional moviegoer, the current tiers — $4.99 to $9.99 per month for one to three tickets — are a great deal. And it’s nice to have all the different options, even if they can be confusing to wade through. But the constant shifting of plans and pricing feels like Sinemia is slipping into MoviePass territory. Just two months ago, my wife and I could get a “2 movie days for 2” plan at $16 per month; now that option is gone, replaced by “3 movie days for 2” at $22 per month. That’s about $3.67 per ticket, a big savings over the $10 I typically pay, but the plan I wanted is gone. For serious movie junkies, there’s the recently added “unlimited” plan (30 2D tickets per month for $29.99), which Sinemia believes to be a “sustainable” model. Time will tell.