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Movie Subscription Wars: How To Scale Subscriber Acquisition
For all of the subscription services that make consumers lives easier, there is occasionally a “that’s too good to be true” scenario that crashes and burns. MoviePass was that idea. Meant to be the ultimate disruptor to the movie and streaming industries, MoviePass charged one low monthly fee for subscribers to go to movies in any theatre as often as they wanted. Turns out people go to the movies a lot, and MoviePass was quickly belly up. However, the MoviePass concept, to upend the dominance of streaming by creating subscriptions for people who still enjoy the movie-going experience, was a compelling one, and many movie theater franchises have launched their own movie subscription plans.
AMC Stubs A-List Subscription Service Boosts Revenues
AMC Stubs A-List, for a monthly fee of either $19.95 for single-state use or $23.95 for admission around the country, gives subscribers entrance to three movies a week at any AMC theater, reserved seats for any available showing even months in advance and special access and discounts on concession items. The subscription plan has been a surprise hit for AMC, which has struggled with low attendance, but saw a 2.4% revenues rise according to 2019 fourth-quarter results.
The cause of good news appears to be AMC Stubs A-List, which is bringing several sources of revenue to the table:
- Increased concessions, which are monumentally important to theatres. A-List members aren’t paying for tickets and they get discounts on concessions, so members may be more inclined to order generously.
- Guests of A-List members who pay full price. As theaters battle low attendance, these usually full-paying guests are a particularly attractive benefit for theaters launching subscription plans.
- A-List memberships are trending ahead of predictions, recently surpassing 900,000 members. And, the average usage of the membership is about 2.8 visits per month, which mitigates MoviePass-like problems, where subscribers were simply over-taxing the membership and creating losses right out of the gate.
Alamo Drafthouse Offers Subscription Plans For Movie Lovers
Alamo Drafthouse, which is known for serving dinner and cocktails during screenings and for being reliable theaters for independent movies, recently launched The Alamo Season Pass. The Alamo Season Pass is a tiered plan based on the locations the subscriber prefers. The lower priced plans are for smaller markets, while the $29.99 per month plans are for Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Each tier allows subscribers one movie per day and seat reservations seven days ahead of screenings. The plan just launched, so it’s unclear how competitive it will be, particularly considering Alamo Drafthouse only has 41 locations across the country compared to AMC which has 1,000 theaters.
Alamo is positioning their subscription plan as another way to bring great cinema to more people, which is on-brand for the theater group. The Alamo Season Pass was refined via a “combination of data and closely monitoring guest feedback,” according to Tim League, CEO of Alamo Drafthouse. League also said, about the new subscription plan, “This [subscription] is a huge win for movie lovers. The entire reason we opened the Alamo in the first place was to share the movies we love with as many people as possible, and Season Pass is the perfect means for folks to explore more and more films.”
Cinemark Offers “Hassle-Free” Plans For One Movie A Month
The Cinemark Movie Club, which is only $10 a month, only offers one redeemable ticket credit per month, plus 20% off concessions and reduced pricing for member guests. Cinemark, which owns 350 theatres with more than 4,500 screens, considers the Movie Club more of a membership than a subscription, because guests collect monthly credits which can be used a variety of ways — not just on a set amount of screenings. According to Cinemark’s website, the membership saves guests an average of $109 per year.
Launched in 2017, after feedback from customers and consumer research, Cinemark decided on the most hassle-free option, saying, “Throughout the research process, consumers resoundingly preferred a monthly membership program with ticket rollover benefits that allows them to accumulate credits, reserve their seats in advance with no online fees and enjoy significant discounts on concessions.”
Regal’s Annual Movie Subscription Offers Guests Unlimited Screenings
Regal Cinemas, a large theater chain with more than 7,200 screens in 549 theaters, is offering annual subscriptions with unlimited screenings. According to Regal, “With an annual Regal Unlimited™ movie subscription pass, you can watch as many movies as you want, as many times as you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.” Although this is reminiscent of MoviePass, by Regal Unlimited requiring one-year commitments and only offering the program at Regal theaters, Regal locks guests into plans, which could protect it from the woes of MoviePass and over-zealous movie fans.
Regal subscribers get discounts on concessions, advance reservations, tiered plans based on location and access to their membership plans through designated apps. However, Regal doesn’t allow subscribers to see the same movie twice at the same theater in the same format on the same day. This is presumably to tamp down repeat “free” viewings of franchises like the Avengers, which would negatively impact the brand’s bottom line.
The rise of streaming has created a very challenging environment for theater brands, who will likely continue to promote the perks of subscription plans, while still capturing the unique movie-going experience. Movie theater brands that want to differentiate their subscription plans from competitors will need to offer compelling offerings and benefits for consumers.
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