Move over, AMC Theaters

MoviePass steals silver screen dollars

Abigail Buenker, Business Manager

Want to see a movie every day? You can, for less than the cost of only one ticket. New movie subscription service company MoviePass is changing box office sales as we know it. The company’s online app and website offer subscribers a daily movie at a participating theater for only $7.95 per month. There are, of course, some caveats. Customers cannot purchase tickets ahead of time with the pass, combine the pass with other forms of payment, view 3D or IMAX movies with the pass, and there are currently no family packaging plans available. Despite these drawbacks, MoviePass has only grown in popularity and size since their August 2017 price drop, experiencing even more subscribers, increased customer support teams, and expanded management.

With over 1.5 million subscribers to MoviePass, AMC Theaters is concerned about the future of movie ticket sales and how it will impact theaters nationwide. AMC Theaters expressed their disapproval about rival MoviePass’ service in a statement in August 2017, claiming that MoviePass doesn’t have the movie industry’s best interests in mind because their service is cutting out revenue to theaters like AMC, filmmakers, actors, and content creators. AMC may be right to show some concern about MoviePass’ ambitiously low subscription rate. Shares of AMC Theaters have dropped by over 35% in 2017, which was a far cry from the chain’s quarterly expectations after the summer blockbusters.

In response to MoviePass’ growing numbers, AMC is trying to block MoviePass use at their theatres and have even threatened litigation against the company. Local movie buff and Media Communications major at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Kyler Guebert of Moweaqua, Ill. subscribed to the MoviePass service last year and experienced a similar issue.

“I go to the movies a lot, and I spend way too much money there. Having a service that allowed me to go as many times as I wanted and see everything I wanted to see in one month for the price of one movie ticket was too good an offer to pass up,” Guebert said.

Though he initially loved the value that MoviePass provided him as an avid moviegoer, he has recently experienced issues with theatres rejecting the pass. Guebert, who is involved in the Disney College Program for the spring semester at Walt Disney World, has found out first hand how easily MoviePass subscribers can run into issues.

“I’m in Florida for a semester and the closest and easiest theater to me to access is not supported by MoviePass. It happened just a week before I arrived too,” said Gubert.  “MoviePass is trying to force AMC’s hand to get more money, but instead they are losing subscribers like me who can’t go anywhere else. I know at least 10 people who cancelled because of this.”

However, Guebert argues that MoviePass could actually help resurrect the movie market.

“I think MoviePass has already had an impact on movie-going. The box office took a major dip this summer and this  fall was a good season for the box office, so clearly there was some impact. But I think that unless they fix their issues with AMC, they won’t be able to last,” Guebert said.

Many analysts also agree that MoviePass could help AMC gain momentum, as subscribers to MoviePass would feel incentivized to view more shows and would drive up attendance at theaters (especially for movies that customers wouldn’t normally check out). MoviePass could help theaters gain much-needed demand. With the bigger crowds, they would be able to make a larger profit and even more people in the audience would get more exposure to new movies in movie previews which would keep them coming back to the theater.

Since MoviePass subscribers feel as if they are watching the movie for a cheaper price, they would be even more likely to splurge on the costly concession items that are available. MoviePass would effectively be filling theaters, while still paying face value directly to the box office for every ticket that their subscribers used.

All controversy aside, MoviePass has impressively expanded into 4,000 theaters and over 36,000 screens. Even though MoviePass may seem like a service for those in large urban areas, MoviePass estimates that 91% of theaters nationwide support the subscription. Area theaters in Mattoon, Shelbyville, Pana, Champaign, Savoy, Effingham, Vandalia, Robinson, and Decatur all boast MoviePass capabilities.

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