MoviePass introduced us all to a new way of catching movies in theaters, and now the service’s almost-demise has changed the landscape once again.
The MoviePass promise is a great idea on the face of things: For a single monthly price, subscribers get to indulge in regular trips to the theaters without bankrupting themselves. It’s harder to see newer, more in-demand movies that are likely to sell out, but it’s also easier to check out what’s in theaters on a whim.
Everyone wins, ostensibly. Studios get more people seeing more movies. Theaters move more concessions. And moviegoers broaden their horizons, checking things out that they wouldn’t normally schlep out and buy a ticket for.
It’s a great idea that’s struggled mightily in the execution, especially since dropping to an unsustainable $9.95/month subscription price last year. The dam broke in July when it came out that MoviePass was short on cash as outages plagued the service.
Lots of subscribers have had it with the recent outages. Others aren’t down with the newly re-written rules. Regardless of where they’re coming from, lots of folks are now rethinking their options when it comes to movie theaters and subscription services.
Here’s a rundown of what all the options look like.
We might as well start with the devil you know.
MoviePass still exists, though for how long remains to be seen. There are still some unanswered questions, but the service is realigning over the next month around a new $14.95/month subscription.
It’s virtually the same deal as before: That monthly fee lets you see as many movies as you want, up to one per day. The big change after the price is movie availability. The accessibility of first-run movies (which is to say, movies in their first or second week of release) will be limited.
It’s not clear how limited the availability of first-run movies will be, but it’s clear that MoviePass intends for most subscribers to start waiting a little longer before checking out a new movie. Since theaters still stand to make the most money from tickets sold directly through the box office, the first-run limitation makes the service more palatable for businesses.
It should be noted that the new subscription plan hasn’t been implemented yet, so some of these details could change. But this is how the post-July 2018 MoviePass is expected to work.
This recently launched MoviePass competitor from the AMC theater chain is a subscription-based addition to the company’s existing customer rewards program. It’s more expensive, but arguably a better deal— provided you live close to an AMC.
For $19.95 per month, subscribers can check out as many as three movies each week. Special events (such as Fathom Events-hosted screenings) and IMAX VR screenings aren’t included, but IMAX, 3D, RealD, D-Box, and other “premium” viewing experiences are part of the program.
A-List subscribers also enjoy the benefits of AMC’s Stubs rewards program. The monthly membership cost earns subscribers points just like they would when buying tickets, at 100 AMC Stubs points for every dollar spent. Earn 5,000 points and you get a $5 credit.
Subscribers also enjoy the other benefits of AMC’s premium Stubs program, including express box office service and concession upgrades.
AMC isn’t the only chain that’s turned a customer loyalty program into a monthly subscription situation. Cinemark’s deal doesn’t work quite the same, but it could be a good option for infrequent moviegoers— again, provided there’s a Cinemark theater near your home.
The Cinemark Movie Club’s $8.99 monthly subscription gets you just one 2D screenings-only ticket every month (though unused tickets roll over and never expire while you’re a member). Members also get a 20 percent discount on concessions plus the ability to bring a friend along for an additional $8.99, and they don’t pay any extra fees for online purchases.
Much like Stubs, Cinemark members also earn “Connections” points that they can exchange for rewards like concession discounts and movie merch.
Sinemia is very similar to MoviePass, in the sense that it’s an independent operator offering subscribers monthly access to movies playing in theaters. But where MoviePass takes the “see as many movies as you want monthly (once per day)” approach, Sinemia puts a more definitive cap on how much moviegoing you can do.
Note that as of right now, all of Sinemia’s plans are marked down to “summer promo” prices. Given the recent events with MoviePass, it’s possible the company may re-tool its subscriptions once the summer promo period is over. All the numbers you see here are based on the current sale prices.
The cheapest $3.99/month plan gets you one movie ticket per month. The Sinemia advantage comes from how flexible that ticket is: There are no blackout dates, no restrictions on theaters or first-run movies, and advance ticketing. A slightly pricier $7.99/month option gets you two tickets per month, same deal.
There’s also an “Elite” tier of plans — $9.99/month and $14.99/month for two and three tickets monthly, respectively. Elite subscribers enjoy all the benefits of the cheaper plans, but they can also use their tickets on “premium” showings, like 3D or IMAX.
Sinemia is a good MoviePass alternative if you’re not a frequent, multiple-times-per-week moviegoer. Unused tickets don’t roll over into the next month, but that shouldn’t be an issue for most since each plan’s monthly ticket count is so low.
If moviegoing for you is a nice thing but not The Most Essential Activity, you could also bail on MoviePass-like subscriptions entirely. They exist at all because high-end home theater setups are convincing longtime moviegoers to stay at home. That’s left a space for interests like MoviePass to innovate are bring people back checking things out on the big screen.
Yes, the subscription plans often do save you money if you go out to the movies regularly. Even something like Sinemia is nice for the less frequent moviegoers. But it’s 2018. Most of us have a subscription to one or all of these services: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go/Now. Etc.
You could just keep on doing what movies-loving humans have been doing for decades: Go to the theaters when there’s something that genuinely excites you, and wait for the rest to arrive on home video.
The turnaround time from theater to streaming/cable service varies wildly from movie to movie, of course. But even in the most popular cases, you normally won’t be waiting longer than three months after release to catch something out of theaters. Avengers: Infinity War came out in late April and it released digitally for home viewing on July 31. Some might balk at waiting that length of time, but it’s really not so bad.
So for some, the best MoviePass alternative may just be to ditch subscriptions entirely and just get back to the good, old-fashioned exercise of going to a theater and complaining how damn expensive everything is.