Thanks to AMC Entertainment (AMC -9.12%), I'm back to enjoying movies without having to worry about paying for each individual screening. After several months of initially relishing and ultimately dreading my MoviePass membership experience, I replaced it with AMC Stubs A-List last month. I have no regrets.
Last week I kicked off my AMC Stubs A-List weekend by catching A Star Is Born in Dolby (DLB 1.06%) Cinema with leather reclining chairs on Sunday night. I followed that up with Hell Fest as a weekday matinee and the Thursday night premiere of First Man on IMAX (IMAX -0.51%). The three films would've cost me more than $45 had I purchased them piecemeal, but the standard and premium screenings were all included in the AMC Stubs A-List plan, where I pay $19.95 a month plus tax to catch as many as three movies a week.
It's a screen pass
AMC timed its entry into the subscription market perfectly, launching in late June -- just as MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY) was making its once-popular all-you-can-watch buffet more restrictive. With Helios and Matheson smarting for cash, this was a summer of discontent for members. The unlimited daily screenings were chopped down to just three monthly showings for its monthly subscribers, and these days it's just a matter of a couple of available films available at select showtimes.
MoviePass is sticking to its attractive price point of $9.99 a month, but with a platform that is practically unusable for most mainstream users, the days appear to be numbered. MoviePass peaked at 3.2 million subscribers in early August, and it will be a shock if that number isn't materially lower when Helios and Matheson reports its financial results for the third quarter in a few weeks.
AMC, by contrast, has run away with the opportunity. It's now up to 380,000 members for AMC Stubs A-List, and that figure will only grow. The subscription plan offers features that MoviePass didn't even offer in its prime, including the ability to reserve a movie days ahead of time, see the same film again, and experience it in IMAX, 3D, Dolby Cinema, and other premium-priced platforms.
AMC is succeeding -- despite charging twice as much as MoviePass -- because it works. The model is viable because AMC can control costs and benefit from the spike in high-margin sales at the concessions counter. MoviePass was always on the outside looking in.
The ascent of AMC Stubs A-List at the expense of MoviePass is great news for the theater industry that saw MoviePass as a service that was devaluing the moviegoing value proposition. AMC's success is also good news for IMAX and Dolby. MoviePass members can't use their debit cards to catch IMAX and Dolby Cinema viewings, and those screenings are likely on the rise at AMC now that AMC Stubs A-List is actually nudging its 380,000 members in that direction to get more bang for their subscriber buck.
MoviePass is finding a way to stay alive, but it's only a matter of time before the financing well dries up. The end of MoviePass will be unpleasant for some, but history will take a kinder look at the service. MoviePass increased consumer appetite for the multiplex again, just when the industry needed it the most. Its fade to black -- or, more fittingly, red -- is spawning the next generation of multiplex-led subscription services that are finally starting to get it right.