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MoviePass lands deal with AMC theaters for subscription movie service

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MoviePass has finally signed on a big partner for its unique subscription service, which lets moviegoers see one film every day for a flat monthly total. AMC, the second-largest movie theater chain in North America, will pilot a partnership with MoviePass in two cities. Beginning in January, select theaters in Boston and Denver will offer MoviePass subscriptions priced between $35 and $45. The more expensive package will allow customers to see films in more immersive formats like IMAX and 3D, whereas the default option will be limited to regular screenings. AMC says the partnership will expand to include other cities, but isn't making any promises about where or when. "The data will determine how fast we go," a spokesperson told The New York Times.

Two cities to start, and more if the pilot goes well

For MoviePass, the AMC deal represents a huge step forward. In most theaters, the service is based around a somewhat complicated system that pairs MoviePass' smartphone app with a custom debit card used to cover the price of tickets. It works, but it's not exactly what you'd call a streamlined process. Previous talks with theaters weren't very productive, since many larger chains were reluctant to let MoviePass interfere with existing arrangements involving Fandango and other digital ticket sellers.

Would you pay $45 to watch an IMAX movie every day of the month?

Interestingly, AMC and MoviePass initially butted heads over the subscription approach to moviegoing. AMC was angry that it wasn't consulted during the service's development and instructed its theaters to refuse MoviePass beta participants. But apparently it's now sold on the idea — especially if MoviePass can help bring up attendance numbers. "This pilot will provide more convenience for our guests, and responds to the preference of many consumers for monthly entertainment subscriptions such as music and magazines, which we believe will increase the frequency of movie going." MoviePass wants to be the Spotify of movie theaters, but there's not much solid proof that consumers want that sort of thing.

Either way, AMC doesn't need to worry about the subscription model upending its business; theaters will still take in the regular per-ticket rate on every MoviePass customer. AMC has conducted its own experiments to gauge consumer interest in new business models. Last month, it offered unlimited viewings of Interstellar to AMC Stubs members for $19.99 and above, depending on market. For MoviePass's approach to be profitable, the company has to hope that subscribers won't take it up on the movie-a-day offer. It's basically like a gym membership; you can choose to not go, but you'll still be paying the same every month. "Some overuse, a lot underuse," co-founder Stacy Spikes told the Times.