The half-million mark is what AMC projected for the first full year of operations for A-List, which launched less than five months ago. It is an offshoot of the Stubs loyalty program, which the exhibitor also announced is now used by more than 17 million member households. Stubs had 2.5 million members just two-and-a-half years ago.
Along with updating the Stubs and A-List numbers, AMC said it plans price hikes in regions where the service is most popular. Starting in January, subscriptions in 10 states will rise $2 a month to $21.95 in 10 states and $4 a month to $23.95 in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. AMC also has lowered the minimum age for A-List members to 16 from 18, and will allow a common credit card to be shared by multiple household members using separate A-List accounts.
“We have immensely successful programs here,” said AMC CEO Adam Aron. “Our objective for these programs is that they continue to be both popular and profitable. Our decision to keep the AMC Stubs A-List monthly price unchanged in 35 states, along with only a modest price adjustment in some key markets going in place in early 2019, will keep us in that sweet spot of balancing profits and popularity.”
The press release announcing the stats and changes included a thinly veiled shot at MoviePass, which racked up three million subscribers only to encounter backlash when it abruptly switched models and yanked access to popular wide releases. “AMC will continue to operate it’s a-List program with transparency and clarity,” the release said. “As a reputable operator, AMC has no desire to whipsaw its guests with frequent change.”
While MoviePass stole headlines in 2017 and the first part of this year amid a widely held hope that it would become the Uber of the movie business, it has crashed to earth in recent months. Both AMC and Cinemark have reported better-than-expected results from their subscription efforts, and many analysts have observed that exhibitors – as opposed to third-party tech players – can more easily monetize subscriptions via concession sales and data. MoviePass, by contrast, faced nearly insurmountable procurement costs with its initial $10-a-month, one-movie-a-day plan. When the summer blockbuster season hit, the company was burning through tens of millions of dollars a month.
AMC made the Stubs announcement a day before it is scheduled to report quarterly earnings. One hot topic for investors that the company will likely address in comments to analysts is its planned rollout of theaters in Saudi Arabia. The Mideast nation recently lifted decades-old restrictions on moviegoing, offering hope of more openness to the West but in recent weeks is has become a highly controversial market after the state-sponsored murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.