How AMC’s new subscription service stacks up to MoviePass and its competitors


Grab your popcorn because the battle of the movie-ticket subscription services is ratcheting up.

AMC AMC, +2.15% revealed Wednesday that it will begin offering its own movie-theater subscription service, to be called AMC Stubs A-List, later in June. The plan is designed to compete with MoviePass HMNY, -30.65% which has attracted notoriety since it lowered its subscription service’s monthly price to $9.95 a month last year.

This won’t be the first time that AMC and MoviePass have butt heads. Back in January, MoviePass removed some AMC theaters as an option for subscribers after the theater chain declined to enter into a partnership with those venues.

AMC has not made any moves to block competing services at its theaters, the company said. A spokeswoman for MoviePass said the company was “thrilled that AMC has finally stepped up to embrace a model that we’ve known all along will be the future of our industry.”

But MoviePass and AMC aren’t alone duking it out for moviegoers’ attention. Upstart movie ticket subscription service Sinemia, which was founded in Turkey in 2014, recently unveiled a new pricing plan in a bid to take on MoviePass.

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Sinemia Chief Executive Rifat Oguz welcomed the new competition, but remained skeptical of AMC’s approach. “AMC’s plan is trying to reach a niche segment of super moviegoers,” Oguz said in statement. “We have been an advocate of sustainable movie-ticket subscription offerings for the last 4 years, and when we look at the details of the AMC plan we fear that this will devalue the movie experience and simply is not sustainable.”

Last year, Texas-based movie theater chain Cinemark CNK, +1.25%  rolled out its own subscription service, called Movie Club.

Here’s how these subscription plans compare when it comes to price, benefits and other features:

AMC Stubs A-List: Great value, with a catch

For $19.95 a month (plus tax), A-List members can see three movies a week. Users can see more than one movie a day if they so choose (meaning double-features are a possibility) and see the same movie more than once. Users also can see any type of movie, including IMAX and 3D films, and purchase movie tickets in advance. Benefits reset every Friday, and members must commit to at least three months. Members do not receive a physical card, unlike with MoviePass and Sinemia.

As an upgraded version of the AMC Stubs Premiere loyalty program, A-List affords members all the same benefits including free refills on large popcorn, reward points for concessions purchases, free upgrades to popcorn and drink sizes and a birthday gift each year. A-List members also earn rewards points on their monthly membership fees, but don’t earn points for movie tickets they get through their membership.

Of course, there is one clear downside compared with MoviePass and Sinemia: A-List only works at AMC theaters. Also, there is no option to pay for a full year in advance, though the monthly price is guaranteed for 12 months once you sign up. Nevertheless, the AMC program represents a formidable competitor to MoviePass and Sinemia alike, particularly for those who live near an AMC location.

MoviePass: Unlimited movies

MoviePass has been around since 2011, but attracted major attention last August when it announced it would lower the price of its monthly subscription from $30 to just $9.95 a month.

The company has also offered different promotions to lure customers through partnerships with other companies. For instance, student-loan company Laurel Road recently began offering consumers a free year-long membership to MoviePass if they refinanced their loans with the company.

The standard $9.95 subscription entitles members to see one movie a day, every day, for the duration of their subscription. To see a movie, users select a participating theater within the MoviePass app and check in for a specific showtime of the film they want to see.

Doing that activates a debit card, which they use to purchase their ticket. MoviePass is accepted in more than 90% of U.S. theaters, but only in select theaters can subscribers purchase tickets in advance or online.

MoviePass also currently has a limited-time offer for a $7.95-a-month subscription that limits subscribers to three movies a month, but comes with a free three-month trial of iHeartRadio All-Access.

Since it ushered in the $9.95 price point, MoviePass has suffered some growing pains. Earlier this month, the company announced that it had surpassed 3 million subscribers. Before it lowered the price, the company had fewer than 150,000 subscribers.

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Amid that influx of new users, scores of customers complained that they never received their MoviePass cards in the mail or were unable to activate their cards in the app. Others argue the company abruptly canceled their subscriptions for no reason, though MoviePass argues they had violated its terms of service.

There are other catches to the service: Users can’t see the same movie twice, nor can they use MoviePass for 3D, Imax or other premium movie experiences.

And while some theaters allow e-ticketing with MoviePass, most subscribers must buy their tickets in person, which can make getting seats at popular movies more difficult. Additionally, the company does collect some data on users, raising privacy-related concerns.

Subscribers should also remain on the look-out for changes. MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson has struggled with cash flow issues and warned that if it didn’t obtain sufficient added capital it may need to alter its business model.

Nevertheless, MoviePass can be a great deal. For movie buffs who see multiple movies a month, the service can easily translate into hundreds of dollars in savings over a year.

Sinemia: Tiered pricing

Unlike MoviePass, Sinemia offers a tiered pricing model, with individual subscriptions currently ranging in price from $14.99 a month (for an Elite package that includes three movies a month including 3D films, IMAX movies and more) to $4.99 a month (for a Classic package that includes a single movie ticket to a 2D film.)

The company also has “Sinemia for Two” packages designed for couples that provide equivalent numbers of tickets for two people at each of the different tiers. These plans also come with deals at restaurants and partnerships with ride-share services, to complete the date experience.

Currently, the company offers an expensive unlimited movie plan in Europe, but has said it doesn’t plan to bring that to the U.S.

Sinemia works with most movie theaters and also allows subscribers to purchase movie tickets in advance and online. Sinemia also allows moviegoers to see the same film more than once. Like MoviePass though, users reserve movies in the app and pay in the theater with a Sinemia card.

It’s more expensive than MoviePass, but likely worth it for those who like to buy tickets ahead of time. It’s similarly a better deal for those who like to see the same movie more than once or go to major 3D blockbusters.

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Cinemark Movie Club: A limited option

The most bare-bones of all the subscription services, this program entitles members to one ticket to a 2D movie each month for a monthly fee of $8.99. After that, they can purchase two additional tickets at $8.99 each. However, the program also includes 20% off concessions, which can add additional savings.

If they are unused, the monthly credits roll over and are even redeemable for up to 6 months after a consumer chooses to cancel his or her membership. Credits are applied to members’ Cinemark accounts and can be redeemed in person, online or in the Cinemark mobile app.

And unlike other programs, Cinemark Movie Club members are not locked into a contract, meaning they can cancel at any time.