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MoviePass Introduces Surge Pricing, While AMC Theaters Introduces a Better MoviePass

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | June 21, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | June 21, 2018 |


Yesterday, Seth suggested that MoviePass will be like Napster: A great concept that fails but ultimately paves the way for better-executed versions of that concept. With the stock price of MoviePass now at $.33 and on the verge of being delisted, that sounds about right. But like Napster, MoviePass will try out some new ideas while in the throes of death, like surge pricing, which they plan to roll out in July.

The added charge to members will range from $2 to higher for titles the app deems very popular with MoviePass subscribers, according to Lowe.

“At certain times for certain films — on opening weekend — there could be an additional charge for films,” Lowe told Business Insider.

It’s not a bad idea, and one that may be successfully incorporated into future movie subscription services, but it’s not likely to work for MoviePass because it’s not what MoviePass subscribers signed up for. People don’t like having their expectations upended, and even though it should ultimately mean paying much less for movie tickets for anyone who goes to the movies twice or more a month, it’s still likely to face a backlash.

Moreover, MoviePass will also be adding on options to see movies on IMAX or 3D at an additional charge (MoviePass currently does not allow tickets to be purchased in those formats), and the ability to add on a friend (a friend who will pay the normal ticket price, but who will still get to sit next to the MoviePass subscriber in theaters where there is reserved seating).

None of these solutions, however, solve the major problem that I and many others have with MoviePass: An inability to use it to reserve tickets in advance. For people like me who see movies on opening weekend, MoviePass is useless for big tentpoles, because tickets need to be reserved in advance, otherwise they will sell out.

AMC’s forthcoming program, Stubs A-List, will rectify that situation. It will cost $20 per month, but moviegoers will be able to see up to 3 movies a week (in any format) and, crucially, moviegoers will be able to reserve tickets in advance. Even at twice the cost of MoviePass, I’d be more inclined to use AMC’s subscription service because I’d be able to use it more often (as in, every time). The $20 price point also means the AMC service will be more sustainable. It actually will operate more like a gym membership because, after a few months, most subscribers probably will not feel as compelled to go to the movies more than twice a month — or roughly, the break-even point (this is especially true during low-traffic months like January and September). AMC will likely be able to recoup the cost of those who do attend more than two movies a month with the sale of concessions. As they are the seller of those concessions, they’re in a better position to take advantage of that.

The only problem? AMC theaters are not available everywhere (for instance, there are no AMC theaters in my area). However, the success of AMC’s subscription plan would likely encourage other theater chains to start their own subscription services in order to compete, and when theater chains compete against each other, the customer usually wins.

Meanwhile, as always, we encourage those who do not go to the movies enough to warrant a movie subscription service to use Atom to purchase your movie tickets. Oooooh! Look! You can get $5 off your first ticket purchase! (Full Disclosure: Seth works for Atom.)

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.