AMC vs. MoviePass — fighting over making movies affordable

Amc_theatres_logo.svgOver the years, I’ve had many a beef with AMC. This Kansas City based empire has used its Second Biggest Movie Chain status to lead the market in ticket price spikes, in killing off low-cost corners of their concession business (Remember “Clip’s Picks”? You could get a popcorn and drink for under $5. They dropped that like a hot potato.).

AMC was the chain that bought most heavily into the dishonestly-marketed “IMAXing” of a America — installing undersized screens, calling them “IMAX” when “MiniMAx” was more like it. And charging premium prices for a screen that was WELL short of “The IMAX Experience.”

They were the first chain to drop newspaper advertising, washing their hands of the symbiotic relationship between media that got their films noticed, their showtimes parked in another medium and studio-placed advertising that benefited one and all. When customers at the last newspaper where I worked called and wrote to complain, they got form letters from AMC suggesting these print readers “complain to the newspaper, which should run showtimes ‘as a public service.'” Right.

And theatres should provide pre-show copies of newspapers as a CIVIC service. Not that they get that in Kansas.

Anyway, MoviePass is an online outfit that’s bulk buying cinema passes and offering people a $10 a month subscription to see “a movie a day” per month.

With ticket prices in the wince-worthy $15 range in most cities, premium pricing running over $20 in some markets, you can see how MoviePass got everybody’s attention with this bargain basement “introductory” offer.

As theaters claim that they make all their money on concessions, that seems like a winner. But NOT with all the 3D, IMAX, and seating up-selling that chains now offer patrons in an effort to make money money per customer. Because customers are staying away.

And AMC is fighting MoviePass. They’re refusing to honor digital tickets through MoviePass in several cities.

Maybe it’s a deal that is “too good to be true.” But knowing AMC’s track record, there’s probably more balance to this arrangement than they’re letting on. This is classic “Disruption” as a business model, and I’m curious to see where it leads, and how studios, whose box office take will be deflated (it stands to reason) if cheap seats becomes the norm.


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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