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Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Unlimited Movie Plan Returns—For a Price

A month ago, MoviePass finally gave up on its unlimited movie ticket dreams. The $10 per month plan had cost the company millions, sending its parent company’s stock price plummeting. In retreat, MoviePass instead now offers for the same $10 just three movies per month, with a limited selection. But MoviePass was never the only game in town. And now its less-known rival, Sinemia, has stepped into the void with an all-you-can-watch offering of its own. The unlimited plan is back. It’s just a lot more expensive.

That doesn’t mean Sinemia’s version is a bad deal; that depends on how much you use it. And it closely resembles the plan that made MoviePass famous: see a movie a day, every day—not including 3-D or IMAX formats—at whatever theater you want. You can even reserve seats ahead of time. Instead of $10, though, you’ll pay $30.

Sinemia CEO Rifat Oguz doesn’t expect his unlimited plan to catch fire the way MoviePass did. That’s because he sees it as just another option on a full spectrum of plans—Sinemia’s start at $5 for one movie ticket per month—designed to entice as many potential customers as possible.

“It’s not for everyone,” says Oguz. “There’s no one type of moviegoer. We’re all moviegoers. If you want to target all those segments, which is all the population, I think you need to have every option, even if they want to go every day.”

In fact, Sinemia already offers an unlimited plan in other markets, particularly in Europe—and has for years. It’s not the most popular plan in any of those countries, but it appeals to the most rabid movie fans, and has become a go-to lazy gift.

It also, importantly, hasn’t driven Sinemia to near-bankruptcy. Years of experience and data analysis have taught Oguz the price at which he can offer an unlimited movie buffet—about 2.5 times the cost of a single ticket in a given market—without giving his ledger a world-class bellyache.

That also explains why Sinemia, despite already having 10 active plans at different price points, hasn’t brought an unlimited plan to the US until now. “We couldn’t introduce unlimited because there was an unlimited, and it was $9.99,” says Oguz. “It would have been meaningless to introduce a three-times-more-expensive plan.” That meaning has been found, apparently, in the void left by MoviePass.

Oguz notes also that MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson is publicly traded, meaning its mandatory financial disclosures provided some valuable clues to finding the pricing sweet spot.


Of course, Sinemia now faces more competition than just the ghost of MoviePass. AMC, the nation’s largest theater chain, recently introduced its own subscription service, which allows for three movies per week, and includes more expensive formats like 3-D and IMAX. It costs just $20, a price point that Oguz has previously decried unsustainable. But while Oguz acknowledges that AMC Stubs A-List is a genuinely good deal, and that three movies per week might as well be unlimited for most people, he sees Sinemia as having its own advantages.

“We give you access to all movie theaters,” says Oguz, whereas Stubs A-List locks you into AMC only. “In our data, we’ve seen that people are more loyal to showtimes than to specific theaters.” AMC also only offers a single price point; if you subscribe month-to-month on Sinemia, you can downgrade to a lower, less-expensive cadence at any time.

Meanwhile, Oguz says Sinemia has seen a significant subscriber uptick in the wake of MoviePass’s retreat even before the introduction of unlimited. Whereas Sinemia's US business had been growing at 50 percent each month for its first year or so since it launched here, it saw a 50 percent increase over the course of just one three-day stretch in August.

“We fill in the gap, so that all customers, whether they’re coming from a competitor or not, they can have the plan that they want,” says Oguz. He also anticipates that Sinemia will continue to execute on its ambitions to broaden the scope of the service, as was MoviePass's original intent. It already integrates with Uber. It recently ran a promotion with Restaurants.com that gave subscribers a $20 gift card to dine out on. And it plans to introduce more night-out partnerships in the next month or so.

That doesn't mean Sinemia is perfect, or necessarily the best option for you. AMC Stubs A-List, in particular, is a compelling offer if you don't mind the theater restrictions, and some Sinemia subscribers have complained about a convoluted user experience.

But if you’re someone mourning the loss of the old MoviePass plan—and doesn’t mind paying what unlimited really costs—here’s your fresh start.

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