AMC Will Test a Monthly Movie Pass Program in Boston

For a monthly fee, moviegoers in Boston and Denver can see up to one movie a day.

AMC Theaters is rolling out a pilot program in Boston and Denver this January that will allow people to buy a monthly pass to see one movie per day.

This is an age of monthly subscription services: music streaming, movie rentals, workout classes all can be acquired with monthly passes rather than individual purchases. But movie theaters have been pretty reluctant to upend their per-movie pricing systems. When MoviePass, the four-year-old company that will partner with AMC on the monthly pass program, first launched in 2011, the theaters balked. The company retreated to beta testing and renegotiating with the companies.

Since then, though, theaters have seen a concerning dip in attendance from their most loyal customer base. A recent Nielson survey found that attendance by 12-to-24 year olds had declined 15 percent in the first nine months of 2014. Total attendance dropped five percent. From The New York Times report:

 “It frankly wouldn’t be smart to ignore the success of subscription in other areas of media,” said Christina Sternberg, senior vice president for corporate strategy at AMC, which operates 4,959 movie screens.

In January, AMC theaters in Boston and Denver will begin working in concert with MoviePass to offer monthly subscription packages for $45 and $35. More cities will be added later.

For consumers, it seems like a cool idea, one that might push us to see more movies than we otherwise would. For the theaters, the hope is that it will push us to spend more on movies (and concessions) than we otherwise would, too. Like gym memberships, the economics of this system will probably work if the people that uses these passes to see a ton of movies are balanced by those who buy the pass intending to see a lot of movies, but never do. Whether it works will remain to be seen. Luckily, the pilot testing will happen right here in Boston, so we won’t have to wait to find out.