So many movie theater subscriptions, so little time.
When MoviePass announced in August 2017 that it was changing its business model to a monthly subscription that cost $9.95 and allowed users to see a movie every day, the floodgates were officially open. Since then, the concept of movie ticket subscription services has become the norm for those that like to routinely head to theaters, and MoviePass has since radically changed its offerings. Update: This story has been updated to reflect MoviePass's new plan options.
As you'd expect, with interest in the idea surging, competition has presented itself. MoviePass isn't the only subscription service in the game anymore--and it might not even be the best, either. To find out which subscription service offers the best value, GameSpot put MoviePass, Sinemia, and AMC's Stubs A-List to the test. Here's what you need to know about each one and why it might be the right choice for you. But bear in mind that MoviePass has been facing some financial difficulties, even resulting in tickets being unavailable at times.
The service that started it all. MoviePass was the first to offer a massive number of movie tickets for a low monthly price and has made quite a name for itself in the process. In recent months, though, the company has faced a mountain of changes in its terms as it attempts to be profitable while only charging $10 a month.
Initially, MoviePass offered the chance to see one movie a day for its $10 monthly price tag. However, the company has now changed its plan to offer a maximum of three tickets each month for the same price. Additionally, MoviePass offers in-app ticket purchases from select theaters, which is a nice perk.
What Doesn't Work
The theaters that offer in-app ticket purchases are rare. The only other option is to check into the theater when you arrive and buy your ticket on the spot. All tickets must be purchased the day of the screening, so you can't plan ahead too far. Another wrinkle is that premium formats (3D, IMAX, etc.) are not available with the service at this point.
Additionally, MoviePass strictly limits the ability to purchase tickets to movies it deems "in demand." However, the company hasn't revealed how it will determine what is in demand. If you enjoy seeing movies in the first week or two of release, MoviePass might be very difficult to use.
The biggest knock against MoviePass, though, is the service itself. The terms of the subscription keep changing. Over the last year, this service has not only begun restricting you from seeing a movie a second time but is also requiring users to submit photos of their ticket stubs and is tinkering with temporarily locking specific movies in certain locations. When attempting to buy a ticket to a screening of Red Sparrow back in March, the title was simply blocked out on the app. When I tweeted MoviePass to ask why, it quickly responded, "As we continue to enhance our service for everyone, certain inventory may not be available at all times." Of course, there was no warning that this would be happening.
Not all of these new rules have stuck, as the company constantly changes course in an effort to stay afloat. What's more, many users who believed they'd canceled their subscriptions were surprised to find themselves charged for yet another month of service. It makes for a very confusing user experience and one that the company's customer service isn't great at addressing.
AMC Stubs A-List
The newest player on the block is AMC's response to MoviePass. The world's largest movie theater chain has integrated a subscription service to its loyalty points system. AMC Stubs A-List offers three tickets each week for the monthly price of $19.95.
The most exciting thing about A-List is it's all contained within the AMC Theaters app--it's where you find the movies, buy the tickets, and have them scanned at the theater. With that in mind, it's also linked to your Stubs account. As a member, you get access to Stubs Premium, which allows you to collect points from concession purchases that earn you rewards.
The nicest perk of A-List, though, is access to premium formats. Not only can you watch movies repeatedly, but you have access to IMAX, 3D, Dolby, and AMC Prime screenings. There are no restrictions.
What Doesn't Work
The big problem with A-List is it only works at AMC theaters. While it is the world's largest theater chain, that doesn't mean everybody lives near one. If there's not an AMC in your neighborhood, you're out of luck. It's also the priciest of the options, though it does offer the most tickets.
Sinemia is seemingly a dark horse that came out of nowhere. However, it's been around since 2014 with offerings in the UK, Canada, Turkey, and Australia. It made its presence known in the US market in May with four different pricing options:
- $3.99 per month for 1 standard movie ticket
- $7.99 per month for 2 standard movie tickets
- $9.99 per month for 3 standard movie tickets
- $9.99 per month for 2 of any movie ticket (3D, 4D, IMAX)
- $14.99 per month for 3 of any movie ticket (3D, 4D, IMAX)
The best thing about Sinemia is it allows you to purchase tickets to just about any movie theater. Those locked out on MoviePass typically aren't in Sinemia and it also works for the AMC theaters found in A-List. There are also a variety of plans to meet your moviegoing needs, provided you don't head to the theater multiple times each week.
For fans of premium format films, the top two plan options give access to IMAX, 3D, 4DX, and practically any other upcharge option a theater might offer--and it's all included in your monthly price.
What Doesn't Work
The biggest issue with Sinemia is the app itself. In trying to simplify the design, it's become a bit confusing. Want to buy a ticket to an upcoming film? Head to the planning tab. From there, though, you'll have to switch over to the Fandango app to find a theater and showtime.
After manually entering the information into the Sinemia app, a temporary credit card number will be unlocked that you can then transfer back over to the Fandango app--or Atom Tickets or MovieTickets.com--to purchase there. It can make for a difficult process.
There also doesn't seem to be a simple way within the app to find out how many tickets you have left. These are all problems that could be addressed in a redesign. Still, given that you're paying up to $15 each month for three tickets, it could make the hassle more than it's worth.
The Bottom Line
Truthfully, two of these subscriptions has some merit. Sinemia offers the least tickets, but access to premium theaters and formats. AMC Stubs A-List offers a middle-of-the-road number of tickets for the highest price, but with surprisingly few restrictions outside of only being available at AMC theaters. Then there's MoviePass. With its most recent changes, lowering the number of tickets you get and restricting what you have access to see, there's very little about the service that helps it come even close to the other two plans.
In the end, though, there is a clear winner. While it may be the newest on the scene, AMC Stubs A-List is exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to a movie ticket subscription. Everything is housed within the app, it's really easy to use, and IMAX, 3D, and other premium formats are offered--what's not to love?
That said, if you don't live near an AMC theater but still want to see new movies every month, Sinemia may be your best bet. It may not be the best-designed app, but it allows you to easily treat yourself to IMAX and 3D screenings.
Disclosure: Sinemia provided GameSpot with a trial subscription to evaluate the service for this story.