Updated on March 25, 2023
MoviePass was the movie subscription service that briefly took the world by storm several years ago. For as little as $10/month, one could go see an unlimited number of movies at movie theaters. Of course, this business model was completely unsustainable, on top of movie theater chains hating MoviePass. As such, MoviePass started undermining their model with various random changes, before finally going under in 2019.
Recently, MoviePass’s co-founder, Stacy Spikes, bought the company post-bankruptcy, and has launched a new version of the service. This time, there’s several changes:
- The service offers a limited number of films: “Basic,” at $10 for 1-2 films per month; “Standard,” at $20 for 2-4 films per month; and “Pro,” at $30 for 3-5 films per month. The exact number depends on show times and whether it’s an opening weekend.
- Only standard screenings, not IMAX or the like.
- The service will initially launch this month in just three cities: Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas.
MoviePass is initially available to those who signed up for a waiting list, which 775,000 have done so far. It’s now closed; the MoviePass website states the only way to sign up now is through a friend invite.
Will “MoviePass 2.0” work?
The more limited take on MoviePass is presumably meant to avoid the problems the previous version of MoviePass ran into. Putting attendance limits on such a third-party service is probably the only way for it to be remotely feasible. At $30 for five films a month, that’s $6 a showing, which is still a bargain. (Ditto the $10 tier, which comes to $5 per film.)
However, whether “MoviePass 2.0” will stay sustainable, or meet the fate of its predecessor, remains to be seen. While deals with some theaters have been worked out, MoviePass is still probably not multiplexes’ favorite service.
Multiplex chains also have their own problems right now: the pandemic has led to a decline in moviegoing, even with hit films like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” As of this writing, box office figures are down 21% from the same point in 2019. AMC is staying aloft (thanks in part to its “meme stock” status), but Regal and its owner, Cineworld, has filed for bankruptcy.
Spikes also mentioned the new MoviePass is “powered by Web3” blockchain tech, which is both vague and a red flag, as is the case for anything to do with blockchain.
Finally, the major theater chains have all started their own subscription services, which offer much better deals than what MoviePass can provide.
In general, the only real benefit of MoviePass is not being tied to a specific chain. However, given the service’s history, I’d be wary of giving them another try. Instead, you’re better off trying one of the movie theater subscription services I’ve listed below.
AMC Stubs A-List
AMC Stubs A-List is the AMC movie theater chain’s subscription service. Features include:
- Viewing of up to three films a week.
- Access to all films, including new releases and 3D/IMAX films.
- Some tie-ins with the chain’s AMC Stubs loyalty club.
The monthly subscription rate for A-List varies depending on where one lives, just as movie ticket prices are more expensive in Chicago than a small town in Indiana. (Originally, it was a set $20/month.) Currently, it’s $23.95/month to use A-List at AMC theaters in any state. There’s also $19.95/month and $21.95/month options that exclude varying numbers of states (mostly California and New York).
On the downside, a three-month minimum commitment is required for A-List.
Those who frequently go to the movies, i.e. at least twice a month, will benefit from A-List. 3D and IMAX fans might also find it appealing, as those types of films are also included.
The Cinemark movie theater chain offers its own subscription service. Features include:
- 1 2D movie ticket a month, with unused tickets rolling over.
- 20% off concessions.
- One companion ticket can be purchased at a discount; there’s also no fees for buying tickets online.
- Earning points and other perks when buying tickets.
- You can cancel at any time; there’s no minimum monthly commitment.
- A “Platinum” tier is available for members who visit a Cinemark theater 25 times, or buy 60 tickets in a year. Benefits include 25% off concessions, more bonus credits, and up to five additional tickets per transaction can be bought at a discount.
The main advantages of Cinemark’s plan include that it’s cheaper than the other plans, as well as the rollover for unused tickets.
Like AMC, Cinemark moved from one set price (of $9/month) to region-dependent pricing. That said, it’s $10/month (or $110 annually) in Chicago, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
The main disadvantage of Cinemark is that users get only one personal ticket per month. And at $10, it’s not much cheaper than just paying normally for a matinee or evening show. Checking the Cinemark theater nearest my house, seeing “Top Gun: Maverick” would cost $10.75 for a matinee, or $13.75 in evenings.
Still, those who go to the movies infrequently (and specifically to evening showings), or go to the movies with companions, might find Cinemark’s plan worthwhile.
The Regal Cinemas chain also has its own subscription service. Features include:
- Seeing as many 2D movies as you want. Surcharges apply for 3D, IMAX, etc.
- 10% off concessions.
- A free large popcorn and soft drink on your birthday.
- Other perks related to their membership club.
Regal Unlimited comes with three plans:
- Regal Unlimited at $18/month, $54 for three months, or $216 for a year (good at 200 of their theaters nationwide).
- Regal Unlimited Plus at $21/month, $63 for three months, or $252 for a year (good at 400 of their theaters)
- Regal Unlimited All Access at $23.50/month, $70.50 for three months, or $282 for a year (good at all 550+ Regal theaters).
Regal’s advantage is that it’s a more generous plan than Cinemark or AMC; again, those going to the movies more than twice a month will benefit the most.
Disadvantages include that Regal’s app is required to sign up for the plan; you can’t use their website. There’s also a minimum initial subscription length of three months or one year for all plans. Finally, Regal’s owner, Cineworld, recently filed for bankruptcy. An uncertain future might give some pause about signing up for Regal Unlimited.
Smaller and non-US movie theater chains
Some smaller theater chains offer their own subscription programs. By their nature, there’s too many for me to list here, but one example is Alamo Drafthouse.
Outside the United States, some chains also offer similar subscription services. A few examples include the United Kingdom’s Cineworld (the owner of Regal Cinemas) and Canada’s Cineplex.
There are a few other alternatives for saving money at the movies:
- Gift cards for theater chains are sometimes offered on sale at some retailers.
- Stick with matinees and 2D films, versus evening showings or gimmicks like 3D.
- Skip going to the movies period and wait for the film’s release on home video or a streaming service. As I wrote before, it’s cheaper by a noticeable margin, especially if multiple people are involved (families, etc.).
Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay