By now we probably all have heard of MoviePass and if you haven’t, it was a service where you paid a monthly fee so you could see as many movies as you wanted each month. There were some restrictions though, the movies could only be standard 2D movies, you could only watch one movie per day, and you couldn’t watch the same movie twice. But it still was a great deal especially when they dropped the price to $9.99/month. But as all good things it didn’t last long. I am not going to get into detail why it didn’t work out because I don’t want this piece to be too long. The general gist is they thought if they accumulated a lot of subscribers with a catchy $9.99 deal, they could strong-arm theaters into giving them a portion of their concession sales. But they overestimated themselves and the theaters said we don’t need you, you need us. So one by one there were less movie theaters and less movies to watch, to the point where the MoviePass service restrictions made it impossible to watch any movie anywhere. And that is when I and a lot of its user base parted ways with their service.
Along Came Sinemia, a lesser known company that didn’t have the restrictions of MoviePass but was a lot more complicated to use and was twice the price at $19.99. Sinemia was like MoviePass in that you signed up for their service, downloaded the app and they would send you a credit card. You could pre-order your movie and then you would have to check in 30 minutes before the movie started. If you failed to check in you would get charged the full amount of the ticket and you wouldn’t be able to use the service until you paid that off. And I think that is what they were counting on because we human beings are a forgetful bunch. Unlike MoviePass you could use their service at any theater even the fancy ones and could go to any showing including IMAX and 3D screenings, but unlike MoviePass they had different tiers one movie a month, two movies a month, or three movies a month with the price going up for each level.
On a side note, I had a horrible experience with Sinemia when they decided to do a classic bait-and-switch. They offered a heavily discounted yearly price to get enough customers signed up for the yearly price but they had to pay up front. And when enough customers did that, they declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations. Unfortunately I was one of those customers, and my bank refused to reimburse me. Sinemia has been under FTC investigation but no one has been refunded yet. If you ask me, trying to strong-arm corporations is better than ripping off regular working-class individuals that is why I believe Sinemia is worse when compared to MoviePass.
If we never had those companies we would never have the plans we have now from AMC, Regal, and Cinemark. So let me tell you what I feel are the good and bad about each service.
Let’s start with AMC Stubs A-List, what separates their service from the rest is that you pay a monthly fee and that’s it. Everything is included at no additional cost. The two caveats are you can only watch three movies a week which is enough in my opinion. But the bigger caveat is, if you cancel at anytime you can’t sign back up for at least 6 months. So if you are thinking to sign up to watch summer movies and then cancel with the thought that you will sign back up in December, that won’t be possible. But if you’re not planning to move and you go to the movies at least twice a month, I still think it’s a good deal.
Now what about people that only go once a month?
For those people I would recommend Cinemark Movie Club. It’s only $9.99 a month and it grants you one movie ticket for any 2D screening. The good part about their service is if you paid for the month but you were just too busy and you didn’t have a chance to use it, your credit rolls over to the next month so the next month you could go twice. Another thing I like about it besides the fact that you get 20% off concessions, is that you can add buy additional tickets at $9.99 each. In higher priced areas like New York or California where tickets that’s a great option to have.
The last service I’ll talk about is Regal Unlimited (it’s not actually Unlimited so I don’t know why they called it that.) Regal was acquired by Cineworld in late 2017. Cineworld is a British company that has had their own MoviePass like service for more than a decade. For some reason it took them a while to bring the service to the states and when they did it they broke the service up into three separate plans. The lowest priced plan currently is $18/month but that doesn’t get you many theaters (over 200 per their website) to use it at. The second tier (which most people are more likely to get because it probably has your local theater listed) is $21/month which lets subscribers use the service at over 400 theaters. The final tier costs $23.50/month and lets people use the service at all Regal owned theaters in the USA (around 550 locations).
The reason I talked about Regal’s service last is all the extra fees and charges. For instance, if subscribers want to reserve a movie online it would be $0.50 to $1 extra on top of your monthly fee (Which is free to do on the Cinemark app as well as on the AMC app.) There are also extra fees for non-2D movies, for watching in big cities (like Los Angeles or New York).
These extra fees are one of the reasons that I feel MoviePass didn’t survive, and Regai is copying these procedures. But the number one issue I have with the Regal Unlimited service is no matter which tier you choose, you have to sign up for a year contract. So if you want to cancel after a few months you might be charged a cancellation fee. Luckily they don’t charge you 12 months up front but you do have to sign up for a 12-month commitment.
With Cinemark Movie Club and AMC Stubs A-List you can cancel anytime with no penalty or cancellation fee but with AMC you have to wait 6 months before you can rejoin.
There is one last service that I should mention, Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass, but due to the pandemic, the service is currently paused. Their service works like MoviePass in that subscribers get one 2D screening per day every month for one monthly fee. 3D, 70 mm, and certain other formats are $1.99 extra per showing and are not refundable.
I believe that covers all the movie screening subscription services in the US. Hopefully I was able to answer any questions you may have had to help you decide which service may be best for you.
If you want to chat with me about the various services, leave me a comment below.
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