Oh, great: another subscription.
What with Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Spotify and so on, I’m not about to sign up for yet another… hang on. lets me do what?! For how much?!
That was my reaction upon learning that, for $9.95 per month, I can hit my local movie theater. I can literally see 30 movies in a month for the price of one ticket.
And owing to, you can now get a full year of MoviePass for $89.95 — which works out to just $6.95 per month (plus a one-time $6.55 fee).
What the heck is MoviePass?
MoviePass made headlines a few years back with this Netflix-like idea of all-you-can-watch movies, but the price tag was significantly higher: $50 per month. The math had the potential to work in your favor, but only if you saw at least four to five movies each billing period — probably not realistic for most folks.
This huge price cut feels like a game-changer. But, OK, reality check: Is it really a good value? Surely there are catches aplenty. And it’s not like I have time to watch a movie every single day, even if I wanted to. Heck, I’m not sure there are more than a few movies I even want to see in a typical month. So is this thing a deal or not?
Let’s do the math
Yeah, it’s a deal. A ridiculously good deal. So good, in fact, that back in August,— though I’m not sure why. Everyone knows theaters make the most money from concessions, and if MoviePass brings a lot more people through the door, those people will buy a lot more popcorn and soda. In fact, maybe they won’t balk so much at the ridiculous prices, seeing as their tickets were so cheap.
For the customer, the math is gorgeous: Even if you see just one movie per month, you’re using the full cost of the subscription. (Indeed, the national average for a movie ticket is about $9, so you’re more than covering your cost.) Everything is else gravy. Just imagine walking into the cineplex three, four, even five more times that month without digging out your wallet.
What’s the catch?
MoviePass is far from perfect. For the moment, you’re limited to no-frills, 2D viewing — no 3D movies, no Imax, no D-Box or anything else that would normally involve an upcharge.
Also, you can’t buy your tickets the day before, and unless the theater offers e-ticketing, you can’t buy a ticket via the app: You have to actually go to the theater and hope the showing you want isn’t sold out. (Find out more about all this in CNET’s overview of.)
Finally, there’s the question of friends and family. Sometimes it’s just my wife and me; sometimes we take the kids. So do I buy four subscriptions or just two? What if it’s guys’ night out and everybody wants to see “Tomb Raider” in Imax? Now I’ve got to pony up full price, or try to talk them all into slumming it on the small screen.
These are, of course, first-world problems. MoviePass is a killer deal, something that could make the company synonymous with Netflix. Is it sustainable? That remains to be seen.
And, yes, a tub of popcorn will still cost you $8. (Gasp! Million-dollar idea: PopcornPass. Mine! Trademarked!)
Postscript: Why I decided to ditch MoviePass
Most of the preceding was written in August 2017. In December 2017, I’d been a MoviePass user for nearly four full months. Number of times I’d actually used it: three. So I was just about breaking even. (I’d purchased a month-to-month subscription before the annual option was announced.)
Even so, I decided not to continue my subscription. The very simple reason? I just don’t go to the movies enough. That’s partially because of time constraints, and partially because there’s not much I want to see. During those four months, I really wanted to test-drive MoviePass as much as possible, and I thought the value equation would get me to the theater more often. The reality was that I could rarely find a movie I was interested in.
What’s more, as mentioned above, I almost always go with my wife, and frequently take the kids as well. MoviePass needs some kind of family plan, because it’s a hassle to use two payment methods — especially when one doesn’t let me get tickets in advance.
Make no mistake: I still think that for folks who hit the cineplex at least twice a month, MoviePass is a killer deal. I’m just not one of those folks. (There’s too much!)
Postscript No. 2: The MoviePass alternative
After ditching MoviePass, I decided to try Sinemia. It’s not unlimited like MoviePass, but it does afford you a certain number of tickets per month for a flat rate.
Right now, for example, as part of its Tomb Raider Promo, you can get two tickets per month for $11.99, or $9.99 if you choose annual billing. Prefer three tickets per month? It’ll run you $16.99 or $14.99.
You don’t have to pay full price for your significant other, either. Sinemia for Two offers two tickets per month — for two people — starting at $18.99.
So Sinemia doesn’t beat MoviePass on pricing, but it does on flexibility: One of your monthly tickets can be used for any kind of showing, meaning 3D, Imax, D-Box, etc. Plus, you can order your tickets in advance using the ticketing service of your choice (such as Fandango or MovieTickets.com) — a huge benefit.
That advance-ticketing process is a bit of a hassle, and you have to remember to check in once you actually arrive at the theater. But I’ve been using Sinemia for the past couple months, and that hassle aside, it’s pretty sweet.
Editors’ note: This post was originally published on Aug. 16, 2017, and has been updated with new pricing and information about Sinemia.