Members of Sinemia, the subscription movie ticket service that billed itself as the sober alternative to the financially insolvent MoviePass, had difficulty seeing “Us” this weekend and it wasn’t because of sold out theaters. For three straight days members were unable to purchase tickets through the Sinemia app, which produced an endless spinning “loading” sign any time a transaction was attempted.
Sinemia Support refused to make a public announcement that its service was down across the country, but informed complaining customers, on an individual basis via Twitter direct messages, that the site was “undergoing maintenance.” In direct messages, the company also refused to refund users who were forced to go out-of-pocket to purchase tickets.
“As stated in our Terms & Conditions, Sinemia is a non-refundable service,” Sinemia Support wrote. “Could you please allow the automatic updates for the Sinemia app on your phone? We’re expecting the issue to be resolved very soon with a new update.”
The problem didn’t get fixed, but became worse as a number of subscribers with pre-paid yearly plans discovered their accounts had been canceled due to “fraudulent use.” While no specific reason was given for why an account was terminated account, Sinemia made clear it was “not able to discuss this any further” when confused now-exiled members reached out.
IndieWire reached out to Sinemia last night, but has not heard back from representatives by the time this article was published.
According to the company’s website, the possible reasons for terminating a membership include “fraudulent financial activity,” using multiple Sinemia accounts on the same device, purchasing tickets for another person, but burnt subscribers who took to social media in droves this weekend found a different connection. In one active reddit post, the common thread of canceled memberships was subscribers who “spent more on movie tickets then their combined subscription and processing fees.” In other words, Sinemia was weeding out users who were using its services to its maximum benefit, which over the course of the year could cost the company hundreds of dollars.
The company also was refusing to refund canceled memberships for the pre-paid monthly fees for the time period still remaining on a yearly subscription, but instead was offering the difference between what Sinemia spent on movie tickets and the cost of the yearly membership, which equated to a non-existent or minimal refund.
What’s interesting is the cost of Sinemia’s yearly subscriptions has only been lowered in 2019, with an unlimited “March Madness” (MoviePass-like) movie plan now only costing $14.99/month for a yearly subscription (down from $29.99), while a three movie a month plan with rollover was down to only $6.99 a month with a yearly subscription.
Sinemia has had a number of bumps in the road – complicated ticket purchasing procedures, a lawsuit over processing fees that forced the company to issue physical card that can be used at theaters – since it made a push to become the MoviePass alternative this summer. This weekend though was the first warning sign that the subscription service maybe following the path of MoviePass and unable to afford the movie tickets being purchased by so-called “power users.”
Update: The following is a statement from Sinemia in response to IndieWire’s inquiries:
“Sinemia is a FinTech company in the entertainment industry. Just like any other FinTech company, Sinemia also faces its own challenges of fraud. After conducting a detailed fraud detection analysis earlier this month, Sinemia has terminated a very small number of user accounts for fraudulent activity and misuse. Examples of activity that qualifies as a misuse of the Sinemia user agreement includes, but is not limited to, sharing one’s membership information to buy tickets for other people, or using multiple Sinemia accounts on the same device.
More than 99% of the Sinemia users are using the service as intended: to enjoy more affordable movie tickets as part of their individual or family plans. Additionally, every one of the terminated users receives full refunds of the difference between their membership payment & fees and ticket purchases. It’s critical for our many, many customers who are using the service correctly that we take fraud and misuse seriously – combating this helps us improve Sinemia for everyone.”