As MoviePass has struggled, theater companies and other competitors have sensed a business opportunity and are moving quickly to satisfy the public’s newfound appetite for subscription movie tickets.
Last month, MoviePass limited its 3 million subscribers to three films a month, from as many as 31 previously, and restricted the number of titles available for tickets—while still charging $9.95 a month. The changes were made to stanch the financial bleeding of its earlier business model.
Meanwhile, competitors have sprung up to snatch a share of the users disgruntled by the changes, saying they have learned from MoviePass’s woes.
Sinemia Inc., a rival service, announced a sale that offers three movies a month at $9.99. Its chief executive, Rifat Oguz, said in the past moviegoers complained his company’s service was too expensive compared to MoviePass. Now, they can try both at essentially the same cost and see which they prefer, he said.
Sinemia’s business, which launched in 2014 and operates in five countries, is profitable today, Mr. Oguz said, because it took a longer-term approach with reasonable pricing. He said when MoviePass slashed its prices last August it was overwhelmed by the sudden wave of customers.
Mr. Oguz said movie-ticket subscription services are here to stay because the casual moviegoer tends to be “more show-time oriented, show-time loyal,” rather than favoring specific theaters or studios.
Movie exhibitors also have considered or implemented their own services.
the largest U.S. cinema chain, in June introduced a $19.95 monthly offering of three movies a week at its theaters.
Although pricier, AMC Stubs A-List, as the service is known, had attracted more than 260,000 subscribers as of August.
Executives of MoviePass and its parent company,
were unavailable for comment, according to a spokesman.
MoviePass’s financial problems have been compounded by technical snafus, such as available showings disappearing from the app without notice, and by the steps the service has taken against fraudulent uses of its payment systems.
To head off potential problems, MoviePass has steered users to a small number of theaters that have electronic-ticketing partnerships with the service. Some subscribers have had to drive dozens of miles to the closest theater, while for others venues are completely out of reach.
Christopher Wensley, a 31-year-old Whole Foods manager in Chicago, had to travel past six or seven theaters before he got to one that belongs to Landmark Theatres, an e-ticketing partner.
“MoviePass [had] basically become a Landmark pass,” he said. Landmark declined to comment on its relationship with MoviePass. With the new limitations in place, service has improved at the other theaters, Mr. Wensley said.
Still, doubts remain about the long-term viability of focusing on select theaters.
Allan Reagan, chief executive of Round Rock, Texas-based Flix Entertainment, which operates a cinema-brewery chain that accepts e-ticketing, said it isn’t healthy for MoviePass and its partners for these theaters to have a monopoly on subscribers. For the service to flourish, users need to have a wide variety to choose from, he added.
As part of its deal with MoviePass, Mr. Reagan’s chain sells movie tickets to the service at a discounted price, which he said is about the same as the average price of a ticket at his theaters, but declined to comment further.