It's becoming clear with the success that AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC) is having with AMC Stubs A-List that MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics (OTC:HMNY) was simply ahead of its time -- and its pocketbook. AMC announced that its movie subscription service is now up to 380,000 subscribers after just three months of availability. The multiplex operator's service that allows the viewing of at least a dozen films a month has grown its rolls by 120,000 -- up 46% -- in just the past six weeks.

Helios and Matheson can argue that it had 3.2 million folks on MoviePass in early August, but drastic changes to the platform this summer suggest that the platform's popularity is fading fast. MoviePass had the right idea, but it came too soon from a company that ran out of cash too quickly for its own good. 

External shot of AMC 14 in Saratoga.

Image source: AMC Entertainment.

Screen pass

Helios and Matheson is just wrapping up its third quarter, and it won't be until November that we find out how many MoviePass members have called it quits. The success that AMC Entertainment is having is not something that we expect to see replicated at MoviePass, as a good chunk of AMC's growth is likely former MoviePass members. 

AMC has done a great job of marketing AMC Stubs A-List to its own patrons. The value proposition makes too much sense for folks who already frequent the chain. However, it would have been an uphill climb for AMC if MoviePass were offering unlimited daily screenings across all theater chains at half of AMC's price -- like it was earlier this year. AMC Stubs A-List brings advance ticket reservations and premium screenings to the table, but it wouldn't have exploded in popularity at this feverish pace if folks weren't bailing through the holes of S.S. MoviePass. 

AMC is doing a lot of things right, and investors have rewarded the stock by sending it 52% higher this year. MoviePass has stumbled, and it's why Helios and Matheson is this year's worst-performing stock that hasn't gone to zero. 

The challenge for AMC will be sustaining its momentum. The blockbuster movie season has come and gone, and while studios often save a couple of tentpole releases for the upcoming holiday season, it won't be easy for AMC to pad its rolls by another 120,000 members -- taking it to a cool half-million -- in the next six weeks. That milestone will still come, though it may not happen until closer to the holidays. 

Investors will also want to see if AMC Stubs A-List can grow profitably. MoviePass was never going to turn a profit with its original model, and it doesn't seem any more likely to happen now despite dramatically shaving back the platform's features. AMC as a theater-run offering has game-changing cost advantages over MoviePass, and with time running out for MoviePass to line up long-term financing, it may not be long before AMC has a much larger potential audience hungry for a new multiplex buffet.  

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.