For frequent moviegoers, MoviePass was a godsend: For $10 a month, the service offered virtually unlimited tickets at a wide array of theaters, potentially saving the most dedicated cinephiles hundreds. But it proved too good to be true when the service shut down in the fall after a slow death. Luckily, MoviePass showed exhibitors there was abundant appetite for bringing the subscription model to cinemas.
The three largest chains in the U.S. — AMC, Regal, and Cinemark — all have their own movie ticket subscription services, while Alamo Drafthouse and Showcase Cinemas are among the smaller chains with their own offerings. None equal the steal of erstwhile MoviePass, but with varying price points and benefits, this second generation of services offers a flavor for every moviegoer, and plenty of chances to save money.
The choices can be overwhelming. Some services are better for people who watch a lot of 3D or IMAX movies. Others are best for those who only see one or two movies a month. Then there are the fees: with some services, you pay the advertised price. With others, you’re on the hook for extra fees for each ticket that can easily double the subscription price for frequent fliers. And with some, you’re saddled with a “commitment” price that seems scary, akin to shelling out for a gym you know you won’t go to enough to justify the cost.
Don’t panic! IndieWire has done the work for you: crunching the numbers and weighing the pros and cons of each major option available today. Where applicable, IndieWire sourced pricing at each chain’s most expensive Los Angeles location. Membership and ticket costs vary widely from city to city.
But first, ahead of this assessment of ongoing subscription services, a moment of silence for Sinemia, MoviePass, and Dealflicks. Those were the days.
Best Overall: AMC Stubs A-List
With over 650 theaters in the U.S., AMC offers a wide range of movie experiences — from IMAX to indies to dine-in screenings — designed to reach the greatest number of people. Its subscription service plays to those strengths with a straightforward model: For one monthly fee, you can see three movies per week in any format. Unlike other services, there are no ticket-booking fees or extra costs for seeing a premium-format movie.
While the company exhibits smaller films through its AMC Artisan Films initiative, many of the chain’s offerings are standard multiplex fare, which some cinephiles may find lacking.
Monthly Cost: Either $19.95, $21.95, or $23.95 depending on where you live. People in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York pay the most.
How many movies?: Three per week, and you can have up to three reservations at a time.
Extra fees: None. Online reservations are free. There’s no extra cost for IMAX, Dolby Cinema, or dine-in screenings.
Excluded: See-It-First events, Fathom Events screenings, marathons, Dreamscape at AMC, and Metropolitan Opera
Perks: You get the benefits of AMC’s paid rewards program, Premiere, for no extra cost. That includes free refills on large popcorn, size upgrades, and $5 vouchers when you rack up enough points. You earn points for your membership fees. You can see up to three movies a year in a state not included in your plan.
Commitment: Three-month minimum. If you cancel, you have to wait six months to rejoin.
What about my friends?: A-List members can book together together through a program called Entourage. You can also buy additional tickets at regular price.
Cost comparison: If you saw one movie per week in Los Angeles, it would work out to be $6 each.
Without a membership, one IMAX screening at the AMC Century City can run almost $25, while regular tickets can be almost $19, when you factor in online reservation fees.
Best MoviePass Replacement: Regal Unlimited
Only one service comes close to offering MoviePass’ promise of unlimited movies. For about the same cost as AMC’s three-per-week offering, Regal’s plan allows you to watch as much as you want with a few restrictions. Unlike at AMC, you have to pay extra for premium formats and there’s a fee for online reservations. The country’s No. 2 chain also has fewer theaters, 549.
Monthly Cost: $18 for access to over 200 theaters, $21 for over 400 theaters, and $23.50 for all 550 plus locations.
How many movies?: Pretty damn unlimited. You can’t see the same movie in the same format more than once per day. You can have up to three pending reservations at a time.
Extra fees: If you reserve seats online, you’ll be charged a reduced convenience fee of 50 cents. Reservations at the box office are free. ScreenX, 4DX, IMAX, RPX, 3D, and VIP screenings cost extra (A Regal representative did not return a request for a breakdown of those fees). If you go to a theater that is not included in your plan, you’ll be charged either $1.50 or $3.
Excluded: Fathom Events, MET Opera, concerts, private screenings, and sporting events
Perks: 10% off food and non-alcoholic drinks. A free large popcorn and drink on your birthday.
Commitment: One year.
What about my friends?: You can reserve seats together with other Regal Unlimited members. You can also buy additional tickets at regular price.
Cost comparison: If you saw one movie per week in Los Angeles, it would work out to about $6 each. Without a membership, online tickets start at $14.
Best for Infrequent Moviegoers: Cinemark Movie Club
Cinemark, which operates 344 theaters in the U.S., offers the lowest-cost monthly fee of the large chains. Its model also makes it an outlier: A subscription essentially gets you one pre-paid ticket per month and discounts on additional tickets. If you don’t use your ticket in any given month, it rolls over.
Unlike AMC or Regal’s options, Cinemark’s plan comes with no commitment. That makes it a great choice for people who infrequently go to the movies or whose moviegoing fluctuates.
Monthly cost: $8.99 or $9.99 depending on where you live.
How many movies?: One per month, with the option to buy an unlimited number of additional discounted tickets. The discount is between $2 and $4 per ticket in LA.
Extra fees: A possible surcharge for premium formats (A Cinemark representative declined to detail those fees, noting that a wide range of factors including location go into the charges). Online reservation fees are waived.
Excluded: Members can upgrade their ticket credits for special screenings such as Fathom Events, but a fee may apply.
Perks: 20% discount on concessions, earn points for purchases redeemable for rewards.
What about my friends?: If you have ticket credits rolled over from previous months, you can use them for your friends. You can also buy companion tickets for the discounted member price.
Cost comparison: Members in LA save between $2 and $4 per online ticket compared to non-members; tickets are $10 each.
Best for Cinephiles: Alamo Drafthouse Season Pass
One of the wonders of MoviePass was that you could use it at many independent theaters and small chains to see movies that aren’t shown at multiplexes. Alamo Drafthouse’s plan helps fill that void with the chain’s healthy mix of blockbusters, hidden gems, and indies at its 41 locations.
The Season Pass is by far the most expensive option on this list, up to $30 in some cities, plus a $1.59 fee for every movie you see. But Alamo Drafthouse offers an unparalleled moviegoing experience: amenities like bottomless popcorn with real butter, a huge offering of beer on tap, and excellent in-theater food are just the start.
Monthly Cost: $30 if you live in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. $20 everywhere else. There’s a $15 plan that works only at the New Braunfels, Texas location.
How many movies?: One per day. You can reserve tickets up to seven days in advance.
Extra fees: A convenience fee of $1.59 per ticket. 3D, 70mm, Dolby Atmos, and Big Show screenings cost $2 extra, on top of the convenience fee.
Excluded: Special events like Movie Parties or Feasts.
Perks: Alamo Drafthouse has a free rewards program, Victory Rewards.
Commitment: None, but if you cancel your subscription you’ll need to wait a year before you can sign up again.
What about my friends?: You can add up to four additional seats to your monthly membership for a $1 discount. For example, if your membership costs $30 a month, for an extra $29, you can bring a plus one to the movies you attend.
You can also buy companion tickets for the normal ticket price when making reservations.
Cost comparison: If you saw one movie per week in Los Angeles, it would work out to about $9 each. Without a membership, online tickets start at nearly $17.
Best for Families: Showcase Subscribe
The major caveat for this choice is that Showcase Cinemas has only 25 locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island. But for movie-loving families in those states, the chain’s service offers a great value with maximum flexibility and minimal commitment when it comes to the number of tickets and access to premium formats.
Options include plans for two or three tickets per month for one person, or buckets of tickets for between two and six people. Some plans also cover 3D and other premium formats.
Monthly Cost: $11.95 to $19.95 for an individual plan, up to $105.95 for a group plan that covers six people.
How many movies?: Either two or three. Unused tickets do not roll over.
Extra fees: If you want to see 3D, XPlus, or IMAX movies, you need a plan that covers those or you’ll pay full price. Online reservation fees are waived.
Excluded: Showcase SuperLux, fan events, private screenings, movie marathons, double features, Fathom Events, Metropolitan Opera, sporting events, select showtimes of certain foreign language films, and other events that are priced above standard ticket price.
Perks: Earn Starpass rewards on membership fees.
Commitment: Three or six months depending on the plan.
What about my friends?: Group plans offer between one or five additional seats in a given movie. They’re unassigned, so you can bring whomever you like.
Cost comparison: Around $6 a month on the standard-format individual plans. Regular priced online tickets start at around $13.50 at the Foxborough, Massachusetts location.
Atom Tickets’ Atom Movie Access is a service launched last year to help exhibitors create custom ticket-subscription plans. As more and more theaters embrace subscriptions as a model, Atom Movie Access could help level the playing field for local chains.
Here are two offerings that use the platform.
Showplace Icon Extras Plus
Currently only available at the Boston location, the service will soon be available in Chicago, Minneapolis, San Jose, and Mountain View.
Monthly Cost: $9.99
How many movies?: One per month. Unused tickets roll over and never expire with active membership. Additional tickets for you or companions cost $9.99.
Extra fees: 50% discount on 3D upgrade fees. Online booking fees and VIP/ICONX fees are waived.
Excluded: Marathons, double features, fan events, Fathom Events, and special engagements.
Perks: 20% off concessions and Lobby Lounge purchases.
What about my friends?: You can buy companion tickets for them at a discounted price of $9.99.
Cost comparison: Online tickets at the Boston location start at around $16.
Available at Megaplex locations in Utah and Nevada.
Monthly Cost: $14.95
How many movies?: Two per month in any format.
Extra fees: Convenience fees are waived.
Excluded: Marathons, double features, fan events, Fathom Events, special engagements, and showings in VIP Auditoriums.
Perks: 15% off concessions.
Commitment: Six months.
What about my friends?: You can use both of your monthly tickets for you and a guest. You also get $1 off of up to six tickets per order.
Cost comparison: Each of the two tickets would cost about $7.50 each. Online tickets at the Salt Lake City location start at around $8.