AMC Theaters announced Tuesday that it’s entering the very crowded digital movie rental market. The chain hopes by bundling the service with its existing Stubs loyalty program that offers perks like free popcorn refills, the nation’s largest exhibitor can take a piece of the at-home viewing pie and establish itself as a go-to destination for all things cinematic.
The new service, AMC Theatres On Demand, offers 2,000 new releases and library selections on the company’s website, its app, Roku devices, and smart TVs for rent or purchase. More devices will be added soon, according to the company.
By registering to use the VOD service, viewers also sign up for the free tier of the AMC Stubs customer loyalty program, which allows users to collect a $5 reward for every $250 spent for buying tickets — and now, with On Demand purchases. Other perks include free refills on large popcorn and discounted tickets on Tuesdays.
Members who opt for the paid tiers, including the Stubs A-list movie-ticket subscription service, earn $5 vouchers for every $50 spent and get additional discounts on concessions.
The move comes as at-home streaming continues to lure audiences away from theaters. Consumers in 2018 spent $12.91 billion on streaming services like Netflix, $11.99 billion at the box office, and $4.55 billion on digital rentals and purchases, according to the Digital Entertainment Group.
Subscription-based services like Netflix and soon Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max, which offers high-end TV and movies plus hot library titles like “Friends” — content that above all else is exclusive — to drive subscriptions.
AMC is entering a much different segment of the industry. Alongside a boom in subscription services comes an increase in the number of companies launching VOD services. Providers from Apple to Vudu all compete to sell customers a nearly identical selection of new releases from big studios — titles no longer being shown theatrically, but still too new to be on Netflix or Hulu. It’s those movies that make up a big share of the services’ revenue.
“Avengers: Endgame,” for example, is available on AMC, Amazon, Redbox, FandangoNOW, Apple, Vudu, and Google Play. For it’s part, AMC wants to leverage its existing loyal customers and their data to sell them movies at home while also offering incentives to keep them coming back to the theater.
Introducing AMC Theatres On Demand! Rent or buy movies, watch anytime on your favorite devices, and earn AMC Stubs points – no subscription required. 🆕🤗▶️
— AMC Theatres (@AMCTheatres) October 15, 2019
An AMC representative said Stubs counts some 20 million subscribing households, which represent a valuable database in a time of shaky box office revenue and increased competition from non-theatrical viewing. AMC chief content officer Elizabeth Frank told the New York Times that Stubs members bought 6 million tickets to “The Lion King” this summer. When it’s released digitally Tuesday, “those people will all get a personalized message from AMC saying that they can now enjoy it at home through AMC Theaters On Demand,” she said.
In theory, that call to action could give them an edge against other services. Later this year, AMC On Demand will partner with AMC Networks to offer movies from IFC Films and RLJE Films.
Competitors have other strategies: People who use Fandango to buy a movie ticket to “Zombieland: Double Tap” can purchase a digital copy of “Zombieland” for the discounted price of $5. And Fandango’s service recently made 3D movies available on Oculus VR headsets. On the niche end of the spectrum, Kino Lorber’s recently launched service offers deep dives into film history with movies like “Battleship Potemkin” alongside the distributor’s arthouse fare, similar to the subscription-based Criterion Channel that launched earlier this year.
However, it remains to be seen if any of these benefits are enough to force users to change their habits from renting on familiar sites like Apple and Amazon, especially when it means adding your email and password on one more TV app.