For the first several years of it's existence, MoviePass remained the movie-going public's best-kept secret. A revolutionary service that would allow you to essentially see "unlimited" theatrical releases for one reasonable monthly fee. In the beginning the pricing structure was maybe a little cost-prohibitive for casual movie-goers, but as the price came down it quickly became unconscionable to NOT have a MoviePass account. They're no longer the only game in town though. We already have two competing movie subscription services with a third rolling out in beta now. If you haven't hopped on the bandwagon yet, there's no better time than now. The question is, which movie subscription service should you get?
MoviePass is the original, tried and true movie subscription service. As far as dollars spent to movies watched, it is going to offer the biggest bang for your buck. This doesn't, however, make it the obvious winner. The service does comes with a few minor annoyances that can make it inconvenient at times to use.
For $9.95/month, the service allows you to enjoy one new movie every day. The catch is that it doesn't include up-sell showings (3D, IMAX, etc), you can't see a film more than once, you can only purchase a single ticket to any showing, and in most cases you cannot pre-purchase your tickets in advance. In order to purchase a ticket, you must first check in at the theater with the MoviePass app and then you can purchase your tickets in person. If you're goal is to see new releases on their opening night, and do so in major cities where most theaters have reserved seating, having to wait till you arrive at the theater to purchase your ticket can be a non-starter.
MoviePass did recently partner with Landmark Theaters to offer e-ticketing and reserving of seats. If you have one near you, you can select your showtime, chose your seat, and reserve your ticket right from the app. When you arrive at the theater you can just punch your code into the ticket kiosk and print out your ticket.
It's a pretty great service for it's users, but they lose money on every ticket purchased through their platform. Their goal was to rapidly grow their user base and then [assumedly] figure out the money thing later. This month, in attempt to reduce their losses, the company introduce surge pricing. Now, when purchasing tickets during peak hours, you may be charged a small fee for purchasing your ticket.
The last downside of the service is there is no way to purchase multiple tickets within a single transaction (or at all for that matter).
I currently have an active MoviePass account which I locked in (paid in advance) for a year at a sale price of $6.95/month.
SiNEMiA is limited in the number of films you can see each month compared to MoviePass, but it gives you far more options in the formats you can choose and how you purchase your tickets.
The plans range anywhere from $4.99 to $14.99/month (if you purchase a year in advance) and allow you to see between 1 and 3 films each month. Included in these tiers are the options to see both 2D and 3D films and you can even use one of your monthly allotment to see a Premium Format film (IMAX, IMAX 3D, XD, Dolby Atmos, ScreenX, Dbox, or 4DX).
One of the greatest advantages the services offers is the ability to purchase advanced tickets through regular ticketing services such as Fandango or Atom. This means you're not limited to any specific theater chain. SiNEMiA will pass the ticketing fee onto you from the service that you choose, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to wait till you arrive at the theater to purchase your ticket.
Additionally, the service even offers "Family Plans" (which should really be called "couple", or "date" plans). For double the cost of the previously mentioned tiers, you can order two tickets at a time. It should be noted that you still only get 1, 2, or 3 "movie days" with these plan, you can just get two tickets at a time for each of these days. So you can't get the "3 movie days family plan" and see 6 different movies. You can just see three movies, buying 2 tickets for each.
I currently have an active SiNEMiA account which I locked in (paid in advance) for a year at the price of $9.99/month.
AMC Stubs A-List
AMC Stubs A-List is the newest service to hit the market (launched in June of this year). It's double he costs of the other services, but it has the best offering by far... so long as you're willing to spend make AMC the destination for all of your theater going experiences.
For \$19.95/month, you get to see 3 movies per week, they can be in any format, you can repeat the same film if you'd like, you can order in advance, you can have 3 active films queued up at any one time, and you get all the regular benefits of the AMC stubs membership (skipping lines, free upgrades on snacks, etc.)
Most importantly, if you need additional tickets for your outing, you can purchase those at the same time without needing to make additional transactions. Need two tickets? Simply purchase two tickets from the AMC app and you'll only pay for the additional ticket. This is a game-changer. This feature alone give AMC Stubs A-List the advantage over the other services. At least in my area where AMC Theaters are readily available.
As far as I can tell, there really is no downside to the service other than being limited exclusively to AMC Theaters. At least for now... (ominous pause)
The signup page for the service includes the following sentence, "Buy with the confidence of our 12-month price guarantee and only a 3-month minimum commitment."
Now I'm not a betting man, but this sure-as-hell sounds like they're going to be evaluating the viability of the pricing structure over the course of this first year of service. At the end of the year though, I can all but guarantee price changes or at least variable pricing based on usage. Whatever change in price comes down the pike will no doubt still be worth it for the value you're getting, but it might make you reevaluate the service once those numbers become available. I could also be completely wrong and you might see a price drop at the end of that first year. Only time will tell.
I currently have an active AMC Stubs A-List account at the price of $19.95/month.
Alamo Season Pass
The Alamo Season Pass is the forthcoming service from the great folks at Alamo Drafthouse. It's currently only available to a small group of people during the beta and not a lot of details are known about it. Their waitlist signup page has the following details:
"Wanna watch unlimited movies at Alamo Drafthouse? Reserve your ticket in advance? And pick your seat? Step right up and become one of the first to join a limited beta test of Alamo Season Pass!"
That's basically no information at all.
If you're fortunate enough to have a Drafthouse theater near you, it's likely your favorite theater. They have terrific programming, they serve great food and beer, and they kick people out of the theater who are disruptive. If you aren't fortunate enough to have one near you, you're definitely missing out.
I'm extremely excited to find out more about this service as details begin to come out. I'm not sure whether their service will end up being as competitive as their competitors, but the theaters themselves have enough experiential perks that it might be worth it in the end.
I am currently sitting on the waitlist to join the beta.
If you only see a couple movies a year, these subscription services might not be for you. If you're consistently seeing at least one movie a month, however, the services will more than pay for themselves.
So which one would I recommend? Honestly, depending on the theaters in your area and how much you like seeing movies, I would recommend some combination of the services.
AMC Stubs A-List is the clear winner based on offering. As long as you're close to an AMC theater, you'll be able to see the most movies with the least restrictions AND you can purchase additional tickets in one transaction. Even with my film watching habits, I could likely get away with having only the A-List account, but AMC Theaters cater to the more mainstream crowds and I often have to visit another chain to catch foreign films or indie flicks. For this reason, MoviePass is a great pairing. I can see most of the films I watch in AMC Theaters and then book reserved seats at the local Landmark theater for all the limited run movies.
Here's how I'd breakdown my recommendations:
If you live close to an AMC Theater, AMC Stubs A-List is the clear winner. It's easy to book, you'll have access to every format available and have the ability to book additional seats for friends or family.
If you're a ravenous movie-goer and you have to have access to everything, a combination of AMC Stubs A-List + Another service is the clear choice for you. You'll get most of your watching done at AMC Theaters, but still have the other services as a backup for limited run things that may not show up at the more mainstream chain.
If you're only consistently seeing 1 to 3 movies a month, SiNEMiA is the clear winner. You'll have the greatest freedom to purchase tickets through whichever service you prefer and for any theaters in your area.