Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Which movie subscription service is best for college students?

An AMC theater in McLean, Virginia. 

The movie theater subscription service MoviePass has been in the news quite a bit recently -- for all the wrong reasons. Amid mounting skepticism as a result of the myriad changes to its business model, CEO Mitch Lowe sent an email to subscribers saying, “MoviePass members will be able to see up to three standard movies a month for $9.95, and be given up to a $5.00 discount to any additional movie tickets purchased.” While still a great deal, this is a far cry from their previous too-good-to-be-true model that allowed subscribers to see as many movies as they wanted for the same low price.

This is the most positive change to the service in a while, which has had subscribers mired in disappointment over management’s rapid changes to the business model, including the seemingly arbitrary “Peak Pricing” and “Ticket Verification.” While things may seem to be stabilizing, it may be a good idea for subscribers to weigh their options.

Washington has a slew of options for incoming students passionate about film. AMC’s Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park gives students the opportunity to see blockbusters on a colossal screen. AMC Mazza Gallerie in Friendship Heights has similar options just one Metro stop away from Tenleytown-American University. For students who have tastes a little more niche or refined, Landmark’s Bethesda Row or E Street Cinemas will open up an moviegoing experience catered to viewers who may prefer smaller films.

If students go to the movies frequently, purchasing a service like MoviePass is something they may want to consider. The three subscription services that will benefit students in the area are AMC A-List, Sinemia and of course, MoviePass.

Beginning with the pioneer of this business model, MoviePass has several features that may be attractive to students. Under the current plan -- fingers crossed it holds together -- subscribers may see up to three movies a month, and may be given up to a $5 discount on movies seen over that limit. With average ticket prices in the district being around $10, even going to see only two movies a month saves students money.

The next option for students in the area is AMC’s rival service “A-List.” AMC Stubs A-List allows subscribers to see up to three movies a week for $19.95 a month. Besides the obvious perk of seeing three movies a week, A-List makes itself stand out from MoviePass by allowing subscribers to see three movies in the same day if they wanted to, whereas MoviePass only allows a single movie a day. Another draw for A-List is the availability of viewing formats like IMAX, Dolby Cinema, RealD 3D, etc. in addition to standard 2D. The one major drawback of this service is its limited theater list. A-List is only available at AMC (and associated) theaters.

The third and final service available to cinephiles in the area is Sinemia. Sinemia offers a number of different plans for subscribers, ranging from the cheapest ($3.99/month for one ticket a month) to the most expensive ($14.99/month for three tickets a month). It is worth noting, however, that the prices currently listed on its website seem to be summer promotions, and the prices may return to the cheapest plan being priced at $12.99 and the most expensive at $34.99. The price is steep, but may still be justified given that Sinemia is available at all theaters and in several major formats (including IMAX and 3D), perks that are absent in both MoviePass and A-List.

At the end of the day, students will need to weigh what is most important to them. Do you see primarily wide-release blockbuster movies and see them often enough to just justify spending $20/month with A-List? Can you justify spending $9.95/month during Oscar season to see all of the nominated movies with MoviePass? Are you willing to break the bank with $35/month to ensure the broadest number of options for your viewing experience? Or is all of this confusion and uncertainty worth it when you get a student discount on tickets anyway? There are no easy answers, but there is that last option: just waiting for movies to be released via streaming services and using someone else’s account to watch them.

bermer@theeagleonline.com


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