This morning Cinemark unveiled “a unique monthly movie membership program. The first program of its kind,” per its press release.
For $8.99 a month, a Cinemark Movie Club membership provides one 2D movie ticket each month with premium-format ticket upgrades available, the ability to RSVP seats and buy tickets in advance with no online fees, additional tickets at the member price of $8.99 each and a 20% discount on concessions during every visit. Unused tickets roll over and never expire for active members.
The business media is making out that the new Cinemark program is some sort of threat to MoviePass, with shares of the latter’s corp Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. down nearly 3% from the opening bell with $9.52 a share versus Cinemark’s $36.21, -0.2% as of 8AM PT.
However, on the surface, Cinemark’s loyalty program doesn’t sound that different from the ones offered by AMC and Regal, or even Arclight Cinemas. In fact Regal’s Crown Club is free, and it rewards moviegoers like a frequent flyer program with multiple visits yielding free tickets and concessions. Arclight charges $15 a year for a type of program similar to Cinemark’s, while AMC has two tiers of its Stubs program: one gratis and a premiere level at $15 a year that includes $5 off Tuesday tickets, free concession upgrades and a faster means for members to earn points toward free tickets. In fact, it looks like Cinemark’s program is excessively more expensive for the benefits received, especially when compared to AMC, Regal and Arclight’s loyalty programs. While Cinemark’s rollover clause is unique, it’s nowhere near what MoviePass is offering: unlimited movie tickets for $8 a month.
Most studios right now don’t mind MoviePass: The app ticket service isn’t taking any money out of their pocket — meaning there isn’t any negative impact on a major studio’s rentals — and any service that encourages moviegoing is good for business. However, it’s difficult for exhibitors to pull off a MoviePass model: There’s no way for them to discount significantly without cutting into a studio’s rental, and that’s what the majors don’t want. Word is that AMC tried to shop its own version of MoviePass to the studios recently, and they largely turned thumbs down on it because the numbers didn’t work in their favor.
Still, there are questions around the whole notion of a whether a Netflix-like monthly subscription model can work in terms of movie tickets. Some in the industry (especially exhibitors) are betting against MoviePass; they just don’t understand how they can make money. The biggest thorn in theater chains’ sides is they don’t like an outsider like MoviePass dictating the market price of movie tickets. MoviePass reportedly is offsetting any upfront loss by profiting off its sales of marketing data related to its subscribers, as well as studios advertising on the app. In addition, the company says it’s adequately funded as the holiday box office season heats up with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
In developing Movie Club, Cinemark conducted extensive consumer research and studied the best subscription program models, both in and outside of the entertainment industry. Throughout the research process, consumers reportedly 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.