AMC Theatres Takes on MoviePass With $20-Per-Month Ticket Program

AMC Stubs A-List comes amid competition from MoviePass and a loyalty program from rival Cinemark.

Cinema giant AMC Theatres is launching a discounted movie ticket program, AMC Stubs A-List, where members can see up to three regular movies a week for $19.95 a month and receive discounts on concessions and other benefits.

The new tier to the AMC Stubs rewards program comes as a response to a rival loyalty club at Cinemark Entertainment, Cinemark Movie Club; and controversial theater subscription service MoviePass. AMC Stubs A-List, to launch June 26, after the opening weekend for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will allow members to view available movies at any U.S.-based AMC location, and in any format, including Imax, Dolby Cinema, RealD 3D, Prime and BigD.

The launch follows MoviePass dramatically changing moviegoing habits as theater owners and Hollywood studios grapple with a continued downtick in cinema attendance. AMC's new loyalty program joins AMC Stubs Insider and AMC Stubs Premiere, and allows AMC Stubs A-List members free upgrades on popcorn and soda, express service at the box office and concession stand, no online ticketing fees and other benefits on in-theater purchases.

"We believe that our current and future loyal guests will be interested in this type of program, as AMC Stubs A-List rewards guests with something that no one else offers: the very best of AMC, including Imax, Dolby Cinema and RealD 3D up to three times per week, for one simple, sustainable price," said Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Theatres.

Aron during an analyst call conceded the monthly subscription cost for AMC Stubs A-List is around double the charge for competitive offerings, including MoviePass. He defended the $19.95 charge as a "sustainable price point" that allowed AMC to profit from its new loyalty program, and to share those incremental earnings with Hollywood studio partners.

"That (price point) makes for possible success for AMC, while other discounters will continue to hemorrhage cash," Aron said in an apparent reference to MoviePass. He added AMC can look forward to higher admissions from the A-List clientele, whom he anticipated will see 2.5 movies a month, on average.

"There's no assurance this stays at $19.95 forever," Aron said, while adding A-List is no short-term promotion. The AMC Theatres boss was also reluctant during the analyst call to address Movie Pass directly, beyond pointing to earlier comments that the upstart movie subscription service's business model was "unsustainable" as it allowed subscribers to pay $9.95 a month to see as many films as they want.

"We run our business. They run their own. We wish them luck," Aron said. AMC has also negotiated revenue deals with Imax, Dolby Cinema and RealID 3D to show their premium movies to A-List members without the traditional upcharge.

"We expect we will pay an appropriate market rate on A-List movie-goers for the studio community generally. And specifically with our premium format partners ... they are going to see a massive surge in increased activity at AMC," Aron said.

Imax CEO Richard Gelfond agreed AMC guests being able to see Imax movies at no additional upcharge via the A-List loyalty program is expected to boost the audience for his big screen films in the U.S. circuit.

"We expect to see a surge in demand for Imax tickets from this exciting new program, which should drive incremental revenue to Imax theaters by offering consumers, for the first time, the freedom to experience blockbusters such as Jurassic World in Imax over standard offerings for no additional upcharge," Gelfond said in a statement.

Under the terms of their agreement, AMC "will ensure there is no reduction in Imax's overall economics," the big screen exhibitor added.

Restrictions on the AMC Stubs A-List program include no carryover from week to week, if fewer than three movies are seen. Members can still, however, see all three movies on the same day, as long as they allow two hours between showtimes. And repeat viewings of the same movie are allowed.

MoviePass responded to the news on its official Twitter account, posting, "Heard AMC Theaters jumped on board the movie subscription train. Twice the price for 1/4 the theater network and 60% fewer movies. Thanks for making us look good AMC!"

A follow-up tweet read, "AMC has repeatedly disparaged our model as a way to discourage our growth because all along they wanted to launch their own, more expensive plan. We want to make movies more accessible, they want more profit."

June 20, 12:30 p.m. Updated with comments by Imax CEO Richard Gelfond on its participation in AMC's new discounted ticketing program and by AMC CEO Adam Aron on an investor call.
1:45 p.m. Updated with MoviePass tweets.