The subscription ticketing service MoviePass has been steadily lowering its prices to entice customers, and now theater chain Cinemark is striking back with its own subscription club. Dubbed Cinemark Movie Club, the service uses a decidedly different approach than Moviepass’ all-you-can-eat style. It’s more of a rewards program that comes with a ticket price lock-in. Members pay $8.99 per month, which provides them with one 2D movie ticket anytime they want, and lets them buy any additional tickets at $8.99 throughout the month.
That doesn’t sound remotely close to the value of MoviePass, which grants members one movie ticket per day for a $9.95 per month flat fee. But Cinemark is clearly hoping to compete when it comes to flexibility. Movie Club customers will be able to upgrade their tickets to formats like 3D; Cinemark’s own in-house premium-screen format, XD; or screenings with D-Box motion simulator chairs. (MoviePass customers only have access to 2D screenings.) Members can also buy tickets in advance — another leg up on MoviePass, which requires audiences to buy at the theater — and will receive a 20 percent discount on concessions. If members don’t use their free ticket in a given month, it will simply roll over, the same way unused minutes work on some smartphone plans.
Formats like Cinemark XD or the chain’s motion-simulator screenings are arguably gimmicks rather than upgrades, especially when compared to competing options like IMAX Laser or the Dolby Vision-powered AMC Prime. And the relative value of high-end presentation formats as a whole is another conversation entirely. But even outside of those options, Movie Club does represent a discount. In Cinemark’s theater in downtown Los Angeles, a Friday-night screening of Justice League in 2D is priced at $13. Factor in two tickets at Movie Club prices, and the discount on what would normally be a $40 purchase of drinks, popcorn, and candy, and a night out at the movies goes from $66 to $52. With just a single MoviePass subscriber in the party, the same night would cost $63.
That’s the trick with MoviePass: It’s most valuable to audience members who are content with entry-level screening options and the luck of the draw at the box office, especially if they live in major cities, where ticket prices tend to be higher than MoviePass' monthly fee. Theater chains, on the other hand, look to premium-format screens as a way to differentiate themselves from at-home viewing at a time when theatrical attendance has grown stagnant. Given that dynamic — and the tremendous waves of press that MoviePass’ increasingly cheaper prices continue to generate — it makes sense for chains like Cinemark to roll out their own options to encourage attendance at the screens they see as most vital to the future of their business.