Why AMC Announcing Their Own Subscription Plan is The Best News Ever.

Gargantuan news yesterday as AMC unveiled its new movie subscription service they’ll use to compete with their arch nemesis, MoviePass.

Andy-Dwyer

AMC has not been shy when it comes to stating how they feel about MoviePass; even threatening to bring a lawsuit against MoviePass to ban them from AMC theaters. “[MoviePass] is not in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theatres and movie studios.”

The two companies even got into an argument over how much of AMC’s ticket sales were attributed to MoviePass subscribers. However, with the unveiling of this new plan, I have a feeling the numbers are higher than AMC wanted to admit.

They even took shots at MoviePass in yesterday’s press release, calling out right at the top that their model featured repeat viewings of the same movie at the “sustainable” price of $19.95 per month.

When stacked up against it’s main rival, AMC’s plan actually sounds competitive:

Plan AMC MoviePass Sinemia
Cost? $20 per month $10 per month Tiered Plans
Where can you use? Only AMC Most theater chains Most theater chains
Movie cap? Up to 3 per week 1 per day unlimited Depends on plan: 3 per month is max
multiple movies per day? Yes No No
Premium movies (3D/IMAX)? Yes No – announced as upcoming Yes
Same movie more than once? Yes No Yes
Buy tickets online? Yes Minimal # of theaters that support it Yes
Buy tickets in advance? Yes No-same day only Yes
Use reward points Yes – only at AMC Yes – anywhere Yes
Family plan? No No – announced as upcoming Yes

Now, I don’t plan on switching plans any time soon, however, this is just about the best news movie fans could hope for. Why you ask?

Because this is evidence that what started as a seemingly temporary fad has hopefully changed the movie theater business forever. Even if MoviePass goes belly up, never to be heard from again, the subscription service model they started is here to stay in one form or another: as it should.

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With the ever increasing popularity of in-home services like Netflix, Hulu, etc, theaters have been all but helpless to stop the declining theater attendance. I firmly believe that the subscription model is the best solution and the future of movie going.

More and more people have accepted the Netflix monthly subscription model as the standard, while refusing to spend $100+ for a family to go to just one movie. Most theaters really only make a profit on concessions sales anyway. If you can get people in the door by making them feel like they are getting a huge deal on the tickets, they are more likely to drop money on food and drinks more often. I know this is true, because I have to literally stop myself from getting popcorn every time I see a movie with MoviePass (That’s a lie, Michelle is the one who stops me).

The other piece of this news that is good for movie goers, at least long term is the creation of competition. The more companies that offer subscription plans, the more they will all have to fight to be on top by offering the best value possible to the customer. MoviePass is already hurling insults at AMC’s new plan:

MoviePass

Of course, what actual affect this has on the movie industry remains to be seen. However, it is definitely good news for consumers who enjoy the movie going experience.

What is a “Good” Movie? – My Quest to Find The Best Review Rating System

“What makes a movie good?”

If you ask 10 people that question you may get 10 different answers. Why is that? I think many times it has less to do with the movie than it does with the person viewing it.

We come from all walks of life, with different experiences, and have various tastes and interests. This is true of not just movie goers, but those who create the movies we love (or hate) as well. All of those things come into play with the movie experience.

While there are universally accepted rules, cinema in and of itself is an art form. Similar to a painting or a piece of music; movies are subjective, meaning different things to different people. It’s part of the reason I love movies so much. Two people can sit beside each other watching a movie and have completely different take-aways.

This subjectivity makes for great discussion, but it also makes it difficult to decide whether a movie is worth your time. Honestly, I’ve struggled with this in my movie reviews so far. At first, I did not want to give any type of numeric score, and now I’ve switched it up and decided some type of ranking system is inevitably necessary.

The problem is that giving one numeric score doesn’t comprehensively say everything you need to know about a particular movie. Sometimes, a movie may be horribly made, however it’s still enjoyable to watch. A recent example for me is xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. This movie, on a technical level, is hilariously terrible. However, it is so over the top and absurd that I had a blast watching it. I can’t bring myself just to give it a 3 out of 10 and move on. However, I also don’t think it deserves a high score just because it was fun. There needs to be more of a breakdown.

xXx Movie Vin Diesel & Deepika Padukone Stills
Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone have a weird way of flirting in xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

So here is what I’ve come up with for my movie reviews going forward…at least until I change my mind again!

Feel free to give me your input: what are the deciding factors for you as to whether a movie is “good” or not??


Cinematic Quality – score range: 1-10

Is this a well made movie from a technical standpoint? story, acting, cinematography, music, visuals, etc.

Fun Factor – score range: 1-10

Despite whatever the quality of the movie is, how much fun will you have watching?

Worth the price of admission? – score range: 1-10

Plain and simple; is it worth it to pay good money to see in the theater, wait until it hits second run theaters or just Rebox it?

Re-watch Value– score range: 1-10

Some movies can be watched more than once, while others you wish you could get that time back.

Overall Score – The average of all of the above categories

MoviePass: What is it? How Does it Work? and Should You Get It?

I absolutely love going to see movies in the theater…not hard to believe considering I was geeky enough to start this blog. However, it can be an extremely expensive hobby. Tickets range between $10-$14 a piece, depending on your location and type of showing, and then if you want snacks you’re not getting away without dropping another $10 per person. Two people can easily burn $50+ a trip if not careful. By the time you start thinking about taking your family of 4 or more, it begins to get astronomical.

A company called MoviePass intends to solve all that with a subscription service for movie theaters similar to the way Netflix works. While they have been virtually unknown for the last few years, they started gaining serious attention mid 2017. They are the first solid attempt at providing a solution to the high prices of a trip to the theater, and may even breathe new life back into the experience if they can accomplish everything they intend to.

In a nutshell, the service allows subscribers to see one 2-D movie per day, unlimited for $9.95 a month, using a membership card. Sound too good to be true, or maybe like some kind of scam? That’s what I thought at first, however after some extensive research and personally using MoviePass for the last couple months, I am convinced it is the real deal and more than worth the investment for movie lovers…at least for now.
How does it work?

Once you sign up for an account, your card is sent to you in the mail. It looks and acts as a debit/credit card, however, to use it, you have to download their free app and link it to the card. The app will list any theaters near your location that accept MoviePass. You simply choose the theater and the show time you want and then “check in” when you arrive at the theater. This will activate your card for 30 mins and allow you to “purchase” tickets as you would with a normal debit card. The transaction won’t go through without checking in on the app (As I found out the hard way on my first attempt at using it).

First you select a theater in the app.
Then check-in when you get to the theater.

MoviePass still pays full ticket price for each transaction, so theaters aren’t losing any money when you use the service.
Is the value of MoviePass worth the cost?

To answer that question, it’s going to depend on how often you personally want to go to the theater, as well as how much tickets cost near you. The more expensive the tickets, the less trips it will take to “break even.” It also helps to think of the cost over a 12 month period, instead of monthly, as some months there may not be any movies that interest you, while others there may be several.

In Richmond, Virginia, non matinée tickets are on average $11 a ticket now (more or less depending on which theater you go to). 12 months of Movie Pass will cost you $120 per person, which means you’ll need to see at least 1 movie a month on average or 11 movies in the course of a 12 month period just to break even. Any trips after that are gravy. Take a quick look at this list of upcoming movies for 2018. If you can’t pick out at bare minimum 12-15 movies that you’d want to go see in a theater, then MoviePass will probably not be a substantial value for you.

To give some real world perspective, my wife and I joined roughly 2 months ago and have already seen 5 movies using Movie Pass. The tickets on average were $11 a piece, so altogether we would have normally had to pay $110 to see those 5 movies. With MoviePass, it’s only cost us $40 (the monthly fee for 2 people for 2 months). We’ve already saved $70 and will most likely see at least one more movie before the end of the month, bringing our savings to around $90 after only two months of use.

In 2017, we saw roughly 25 movies at various theaters. This year, we’re already on track to see more, as we are not only using MoviePass to watch movies we would have seen anyway, but now we’re also more inclined to go to movies we would have otherwise waited to catch at a second run theater or even after hitting Redbox. You can do the math from there, but we will literally save hundreds of dollars and see more movies this year. It’s a no brainer for us. While all of that is wonderful, MoviePass it isn’t perfect…yet.

There are still some road blocks that need to be fixed and improved. Here’s an overview of both the benefits and current drawbacks:

Benefits

  • See one 2-D movie per day, every day for $10 a month per person.
  • Similar to Netflix, the plan is month-to-month with no contract, and can be canceled at any time.
  • You can see what theaters nesr you participate before joining. As of right now, most theater chains are. In Richmond, VA, Cinebistro is the only major theater in the area that doesn’t accept MoviePass yet. I was pleasantly surprised to see that even Byrd Theater, an excellent local, second run cinema in a historical theater house was on board.
  • You can still rack up reward points with any theater membership you have every time you visit the theater.
  • Some theaters offer the ability to buy tickets online: the app will show which ones support the feature.
  • The process is fairly secure. Even if you lose your card, it can’t be used unless they know your account login information.

Drawbacks

  • You can’t buy advance tickets with Movie Pass, only same day. You can however buy tickets earlier in the day for a showing later that same day.
  • While the option to buy tickets online is fantastic, only a few support that feature so far. (None do in the Richmond area at the time of this post).
  • As of right now the service only offers individual plans, so if you want to use it along with a spouse or family member, each person will have to open their own, separate account. Some type of “family plan” is definitely needed to make the process more user-friendly and accessible. That being said, with just two people, it isn’t a huge hassle.
  • As of right now, you cannot see 3-D or IMAX movies. I don’t see many movies in those formats anyway, but could be a frustration for some.
  • Customer Service could be improved. The app is fairly user-friendly. However, there is an option to chat with a representative for help or questions. I have only tried it once so far, but after 10 mins no one had responded to my question. I did find the answer in the FAQ, however the point of having the chat option should be to get assistance quickly, no matter where you are.

Is MoviePass sustainable?

While the service is an obvious value to the consumer, it is fair to ask how in the world the company plans on staying afloat long-term? Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass was interviewed by Wired magazine back in August, where he laid out much of their strategy.

For the short-term, they appear to be banking on an approach that sounds similar to that of gym memberships, by hoping members don’t see enough movies to get the full value out of the cost. Part of this also includes focusing on driving more memberships in areas of the country where ticket prices are under $10. This means areas where it will take more trips to “break even.” While this may work for gyms, with movies there are too many people who will take advantage of the service and use it to its full potential. It’s hard to see how MoviePass wouldn’t lose massive amounts of money and eventually fold if this was the full extent of their business plan. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to be.

Lowe expanded by talking about a vision to grow the company using member’s movie viewing data. By bringing in the data company Helios and Matheson Analytics this past August, MoviePass will eventually make upgrades to their app that will help them have “total ownership of a night on the town.” They’ll seek partnerships with restaurants and other establishments to make their app a one-stop-shop for movie goers:

Helios’s mapping of the area around the theater, and all the different things you might encounter in that area, will allow us to do much more than we currently do. Here’s a great place to park, here’s a great restaurant across the street,” Lowe says. “You’re going to be able to pay for your concessions, pick your seats, and probably be able to pay for things at adjacent businesses and get one monthly bill.

Lowe also envisions a future where they have a direct hand in the success of films. Many times movies flop at the box office because consumers refuse to gamble movie tickets at $11-12 a pop and then snack prices on top of that to go see a movie they’re not sure they will enjoy. Now imagine there’s an army of millions of avid movie goers who no longer feel any negative financial repercussions tied to their movie selection. Using its members’ viewing data, they could strategically put those risky movies in front of the people most likely to be interested. This opens up a world of advertising possibilities that will put money in their pocket, make more movies financially lucrative and add value for subscribers. All that being said, the most difficult, and also most essential step will be building that army, without going under in the process. So how are they doing with that? So far, very well it seems.

By the end of 2016 MoviePass had 20,000 subscribers. As of January of 2018, they have surpassed 1.5 million. Much of that spike began back in August, when they dropped the monthly fee down from $50 to $9.95. They realized they weren’t getting enough bites at that price point. However, the day they dropped the price, their website crashed due to the massive influx of traffic. Now they seem to be well on their way to gaining that army of millions. I’ve noticed myself the uptick in people I know talking about the service, as well as seeing more people in the ticket lines getting their cards out.

All of this sounds fantastic to most, however some theaters aren’t yet 100% sold on the vision. AMC has voiced objections from the beginning, and is seeking a way out of accepting MoviePass. Their argument is that if the service flops (which they see as a matter of time), theaters will be the ones to suffer as members will not want to go back to the old status quo. Ultimately, to be successful, MoviePass will have to find a way to smooth things over and convince all theaters to buy in to the potential.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. Personally, I hope the company can achieve everything it is setting out to do, as it truly will change the face of the movie going experience if they succeed. However, at least for now I’m going to enjoy the hell out of MoviePass while it lasts, as it is hands down the best deal available for seeing movies in the theater.

chris-pratt-and-jennifer-lawrence-in-passengers-20161830394001.jpg
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in 2016’s Passengers