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Sinemia vs. MoviePass vs. AMC Stubs A-List vs. Movie Club: Movie subscriptions compared

Each subscription promises cheaper access to the cineplex. Is there one that's worth the money?

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James Martin/CNET

Movie theaters are hurting. Attendance has plummeted, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Theater-chain stocks have taken a beating.

Could a movie-ticket subscription service come to the rescue? At least four are trying: AMC Stubs A-List, Cinemark Movie ClubMoviePass and Sinemia. Although they share the same basic promise -- charge a flat monthly rate for X tickets -- they take very different approaches to the subscription model. Let's take a look at what each service offers and see which one, if any, deserves your dollars.

Read more: Sinemia adds new unlimited $30 plan to push MoviePass out of your life

AMC Stubs A-List

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AMC

Price: $19.95 (plus tax).

What you get: Three tickets per week and all the benefits of an AMC Stubs Premiere membership.

Limitations: AMC theaters only. Requires a three-month commitment. There's no bring-a-friend or family option. No Stubs points earned for tickets booked through A-List.

Summary: AMC's feud with MoviePass resulted in A-List, its own private subscription service. Because it's barely a month old (it rolled out near the end of June), it's too soon to tell how it will fare against MoviePass and other services, all of which are more established. But the value proposition is definitely higher than that of either Cinemark Movie Club or Sinemia, because your $20 buys you as many as 12 tickets per month. 

Worth it? Three tickets per week is probably ample for most moviegoers, and even if you use just three per month, it's a bargain. The support for 3D, Imax and other premium showings is definitely a plus, but for now you're stuck paying full price if you want to add a friend or family member. The bigger question: Do you live near an AMC theater?

Cinemark Movie Club

cinemark-movie-club

Cinemark's new Movie Club scores you a slight discount on tickets.

Cinemark

Price: $8.99.

What you get: One ticket per month, 20 percent off concessions, additional tickets for $8.99 each and unused tickets can roll over.

Limitations: Cinemark theaters only, and 2D movies only.

Summary: Announced in late 2017 by theater chain Cinemark, Movie Club offers little compared with MoviePass, Sinemia and Stubs A-List. You're basically buying a single discounted ticket every month, with the option for additional pay-as-you-go discounted tickets. The rollover option is useful for those months when there's nothing to see, but if you want anything other than a 2D showing, you'll have to pay more.

Worth it? In my neck of the woods (metro Detroit), a single Cinemark ticket to an evening show costs $10.50. So paying $9 per month saves me only $1.50. Now, if I bring my family of four, we each pay $8.99 instead of $10.50; now I've saved $6. I'm also likely to save a few bucks on popcorn. That's all fine, but it's hardly earth-shattering, and not really enough to get me out of the house on a snowy evening. The real issue, though: There are no Cinemark theaters near where I live.

MoviePass

moviepass-card

With MoviePass' $9.95-per-month plan, you can see a select movie -- in a theater -- three times a month. Only the popcorn costs extra.

MoviePass

Price: $9.95 for three tickets per month.

What you get: A special debit card that can be used to purchase a ticket at nearly any US theater.

Limitations: Day-of purchases only, some requiring your presence at the theater. Select movies only (for now). No family or couples option. After three movies, customers can receive a $2 to $5 discount on tickets depending on geography and film selected.

Summary: In the past year, MoviePass has experienced more ups and downs than a roller coaster. For a full rundown, read my story on how MoviePass works. The short version: Issues like bugs, blackouts and surge pricing have shown that the company can't sustain its original model. But it's making changes -- on an almost weekly basis, it seems -- and still offers considerable value.

Worth it? If you use your MoviePass just three times a month, it affords a truly unbeatable deal on tickets -- even if you have to pay a few bucks for a fourth ticket. Still, much-needed options like 3D, Imax and bring-a-guest have yet to roll out, and they'll end up costing you even more. Frequent moviegoers might be better served with a competing service with fewer restrictions. The uncertainty over MoviePass' future makes it hard to recommend, though if you're just paying monthly anyway and can cancel anytime, why not just max out your pass while you can?

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Sinemia

sinemia-debit-card

Like MoviePass, Sinemia offers a prepaid debit card that gets you into the movies.

Sinemia

Price: $3.99 for one ticket per month; $7.99 for two tickets per month; $9.99 for three tickets per month; $29.99 for 30 tickets per month; family plans start at $7.99 per month; $20 sign-up fee (waived with selection of an annual plan).

What you get: A special debit card good for a fixed number of tickets per month at nearly any theater. Support for advance ticket purchases. Support for third-party ticket processors such as Fandango.

Limitations: Premium shows (3D, Imax and so on) require an Elite plan, which adds considerably to cost. There's no rollover for unused tickets.

Summary: Sinemia promises an easier, less restrictive subscription than MoviePass, but recent changes have made things a little more complex. For starters, pricing is all over the place -- it seems like every time I check it, there's a different sale running and a different pricing structure. Both the sign-up fee and Elite option are new. Your plan used to include one premium showing per month, but now that costs extra. Still, the option to use your favorite ticketing service (and rack up points along the way) is a big plus, even if the app is still something of a hassle to use for advance purchasing.

Worth it? For the occasional moviegoer, the current tiers -- $3.99 to $9.99 per month for one to three tickets -- are a great deal. And it's great to have all the different options, even if they can be confusing to wade through. I don't really care about 3D or Imax, so I'm happy with something like the "2 movie days for 2" plan at $16 per month. That's $4 per ticket, a big savings over the $10 I typically pay. There's also the just-introduced "unlimited" plan (30 2D tickets per month for $29.99), which is probably overkill for most people, but at least Sinemia promises this is a "sustainable" model, unlike MoviePass' original unlimited plan.

Originally published Dec. 18, 2017.
Update, Sept. 17, 2018: This comparison has been updated multiple times with price changes and new additions.

Is MoviePass a good deal? Our frequently updated analysis.