AMC and Regal Put the Final Nail in MoviePass' Coffin

It's been nearly a month since Helios and Matheson Analytics' MoviePass has been unavailable, presumably as the cash-strapped parent of the once popular multiplex subscription service rolls out "improvements" to its app. It's not easy competing against global leader AMC Entertainment's (NYSE: AMC) AMC Stubs A-List, and now the country's second largest chain is getting in on the MoviePass roasting. 

Cineworld's (LSE: CINE) Regal Entertainment is officially throwing its hat into the ring of the multiplex buffet arena, weeks after industry buzz started percolating that it would follow AMC's lead. Cineworld is now offering up details for Regal Unlimited, a program that's actually a lot closer to the original MoviePass model, which proved so popular that it peaked at more than 3 million members before crumbling, than AMC's own offering. If Helios and Matheson thought relaunching MoviePass was going to be hard before, given its cash flow concerns and the presence of AMC Stubs A-List, things are about to get even harder. 

A pair of reclining leather seats at an AMC theater.

Image source: AMC Entertainment.

The disrupted are now the disruptors

Regal Unlimited offers subscription plans starting at $18 a month and, unlike AMC Stubs A-List, which offers no more than three weekly screenings and active advance reservations the new Cineworld plan, promises to live up to the "Unlimited" in its moniker. The new plan isn't necessarily better or cheaper than AMC Stubs A-List, particularly if you enjoy 3-D and IMAX screenings. 

Premium screenings are included with AMC's plan, but Regal Unlimited will tack on a surcharge of $1.50 to $3 per viewing. Regal also charges a $0.50 convenience fee for app bookings, a surcharge absent from AMC's platform.

The one-two punch of AMC and Cineworld's Regal should put MoviePass to rest for good. A third-party platform is never going to have the pricing leverage that an actual multiplex operator does. Exhibitors can use a discounted subscription offering as a loss leader, hoping to make up the difference through advertising and more importantly high-margin concessions. There's a reason Sinemia called it quits in the U.S. earlier this year. 

Theater chains initially complained that subscription plans were devaluing the moviegoing experience. AMC turned heads last summer by launching A-List to disrupt the disruptors. Regal's move to jump in now, with Sinemia out of business and Helios and Matheson suspending MoviePass with only a slim chance of its coming back, suggests that the multiplex smorgasbords are here to stay. Why would Regal Unlimited roll out if it didn't think A-List would be sticking around? 

The launch of Regal Unlimited makes it less likely for MoviePass to roll out again. The only gluttons for punishment sticking around until now are those who didn't have easy access to an AMC location. Regal often has theaters in areas lacking an AMC presence. We'll see how AMC and Regal platforms evolve in the coming months, but for now the industry has retaken control of what many perceived as its biggest threat a couple of years ago.

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings. The Motley Fool recommends IMAX. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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