Why a Movie Theater Chain Launched a New Membership Model

Competition from a membership-driven upstart named MoviePass has drawn lots of attention toward possible movie industry disruption in recent months. But Cinemark says MoviePass isn’t the only reason it decided to launch a monthly subscription model this week.

When a startup tried to turn the process of going to the movies into a $9.95-a-month membership program earlier this year, it raised plenty of eyebrows.

But whether or not it succeeds on its own, the impact of MoviePass appears to be forcing shifts in the movie theater industry that could turn the process of paying for a movie into something akin to signing up for Netflix. It’s another reflection of how the concepts of association membership are slowly but surely going mainstream.

An additional argument in that general direction: This week, Cinemark announced a movie plan of its own. While not as aggressive a deal as MoviePass, which covers unlimited showings over a 30-day period, the company’s new $8.99 Movie Club  membership includes one free movie ticket per month, discounted ticket prices, and a 20 percent discount on concessions.

The plan also has perks that MoviePass doesn’t: Unused movie tickets roll over and never expire, and seating can be reserved and bought in advance with no additional fees.

Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said the program was research-driven, with consumer interests in mind.

“Based on the feedback we received, we designed Movie Club with all of the features and benefits that moviegoers desire most in a membership program without any of the hassle, enabling our guests to enjoy the moviegoing experience with their friends and family,” Zoradi said in a news release.

In comments to the Los Angeles Times, Zoradi noted there were some differences in the two models—specifically, that its Movie Club would encourage people who don’t go to the theater very often to increase their number of visits in a given year.

“Our goal was really simple. It was to increase attendance and remove all of the pain points around it,” he added. “It helps us, our studio partners, and the overall business.”

The price level, whatever the case, appears to reflect a response to MoviePass, which recently launched a yearly payment option of $89.95—or $6.95 per month—plus a processing fee.

MoviePass’ model, which works around major movie theaters, has proven controversial, and led to skepticism as to whether it (along with its corporate parent Helios & Matheson) can be successful in the long run.

Whatever the case, it’s likely that the company’s already starting to push the movie theater sector toward different business models. Cinemark may be the first to respond, but it’s likely others will follow suit.

(Pictac/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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