MoviePass opened Pandora’s box for subscription-based movie ticketing services, and our Sinemia review explains if they’re beating the original at their own game.
Update (April 26, 2019): Sinemia couldn’t survive the snappening. In a statement posted on their website Thursday, April 25, Sinemia announced they were shutting down in the United States effectively immediately. The announcement came just as Avengers: Endgame was hitting theaters across the country.
“We are all witnessing that the future of moviegoing is evolving through movie ticket subscriptions,” they wrote. “However, we didn’t see a path to sustainability as an independent movie ticket subscription service in the face of competition from movie theaters as they build their own subscriptions. Thanks to the cost advantage and cross-sell opportunities, movie theaters will be prominent in the movie ticket subscription economy.”
“While we are proud to have created a best in market service, our efforts to cover the cost of unexpected legal proceedings and raise the funds required to continue operations have not been sufficient.”
Sinemia did not discuss if those who purchased a year membership up front would be reimbursed. Hypable recommends reaching out to your bank and disputing the transaction.
Original review: In 2018, I penned a eulogy of sorts to MoviePass, a subscription-based movie ticketing service to which I’d been a loyal member for over three years. This summer, nearly a year after lowering its monthly subscription cost to unsustainable low prices, MoviePass began implementing changes and restrictions that fundamentally changed the service.
After finally jumping ship, I joined Sinemia — a service that’s proven itself to be far superior to MoviePass, but not without its own issues, not the least of which is its rather peculiar name. Our full Sinemia review breaks down the pros and cons.
What is Sinemia?
On the surface, Sinemia provides a nearly identical service to MoviePass. For a low monthly fee, Sinemia gives users the ability to purchase an allotted number of tickets each month without requiring them to pay for each ticket individually.
The idea exists in the same vein of streaming services that give users access to a huge library of movies and TV for a monthly subscription cost. The difference, of course, is that Sinemia users can get the cost of their movie tickets covered.
Like MoviePass, Sinemia uses a smartphone app — available on both Apple and Android devices — that allows users to search for and identify theater locations and movie times. The app requires users to check in once they are at the theater in order to confirm their reservation.
Though it doesn’t come included with your subscription when you initially sign up, Sinemia allows users to order a physical card for an extra fee of $14.99. If you don’t want to go that route, they give you a digital credit card number and let you buy online through ticket sellers like Atom or MovieTickets. Once users identify the movie and showtime they want, Sinemia generates a random credit card number that they can use to purchase tickets online.
At face value, this seems like a great deal. However, like any great deal, things aren’t as perfect as they may seem. We break down the pros and cons of the service in our Sinemia review continued below.
With a service like this, users should expect plenty of trade offs. Many of the best elements of Sinemia are tied directly to the service’s weaknesses.
Pro: Advance ticketing
Arguably the most significant advantage to Sinemia is that it allows you to purchase tickets online and in advance of your showtime. If you’re an avid moviegoer, this matters. For users interested in reaping the rewards from loyalty programs from their local theaters or Fandango, buying online is often the only way to rack up points.
This is also a huge improvement for users who like to attend popular movies with big opening weekends where seats can be hard to get; if you have to wait until you get to the theater to buy your seat, you may end up forfeiting the showtime you want.
Unlike MoviePass, Sinemia encourages users to buy in advance. Just select the location, date, and time of the showtime on the app and use a credit card number that Sinemia gives you to purchase your ticket. New in 2019, Sinemia is giving users a personal digital credit card number that’ll remain active for the life of your account. Previously, users were given a new credit card number every time they reserved a showtime, which was a frustrating experience. Now, users can store that digital credit card number in whatever app they typically use to buy tickets.
Con: Advance ticketing
Advance ticketing isn’t without its own issues, though. Buying your ticket in advance can negatively impact group moviegoing; if you’re buying tickets for a group, you’ll have to separate the transactions (and different Sinemia accounts). It will also test your logistical skills if you and your friends are buying advance tickets ahead of time.
Pro: Sinemia’s physical card
In late 2018 Sinemia began letting users order a physical credit card for a one-time fee of $14.99. The card allows you to purchase your movie ticket right in the theater as opposed to using the Advance Ticketing process that initially defined their service.
Your physical card arrives in the mail a couple weeks after you place your order. Though you have to pay a one-time extra fee, the physical card eliminates Sinemia’s Advance Ticketing fees that are tacked on when you purchase your tickets digitally.
Pro: Seeing multiple movies a month
At its core, Sinemia offers users the ability to see several movies a month with few restrictions and easy-to-understand plans.
As of March 2019, plans range in price from $2.99 to $10.99 per month depending on how many movies you’d like to see. All plans let you see movies in any theater with no black out days, and your unused tickets roll over to the next month. The cheaper plans require you see the film in a standard 2D format as opposed to IMAX, 3D, etc.
Assuming your theater charges $10 a ticket (which is a conservative estimate, still $5-$8 cheaper than most of my local theaters), and you’re using all of your allotted tickets, you’re going to be saving a lot of money over time.
Con: Service fees
With online ticketing comes services fees and Sinemia isn’t ready to start fronting the cost for that. In a recent announcement, Sinemia told customers that they would be required to pay the convenience fee and processing fee enforced by ticketing sites.
This ends up costing users anywhere from $1.00 to $3.00 per transaction. This move earned Sinemia a class-action lawsuit from users alleging Sinemia “essentially became a bait-and-switch scheme” by luring in customers with the temptation of a single monthly price and then adding fees on top of that fee after users sign up.
In my opinion, the service fee is negligible, especially when you’re staring in the face of ticket prices at or over $15. Movie tickets, especially at major chains, are showing no signs of getting any cheaper. Sure, it’s not ideal to have to pay an extra buck or two per ticket, but the cost savings is still exponential, especially for frequent moviegoers.
If you order the aforementioned physical card, you don’t have to deal with those transaction and convenience fees since you’re buying the ticket right in the theater.
Pro: No theater or showtime restrictions
There was a time when MoviePass allowed users to see movies without restrictions. We all saw how quickly that changed once the company fell into financial woes.
As of right now, Sinemia works much the same as early-MoviePass: users can see any movie at any showtime. Moreover, some boutique and/or more expensive theaters that were not available on MoviePass are still available through Sinemia.
Whether these theater chains will wisen up to Sinemia’s game and start enforcing restrictions remains to be seen, but for now, it works like a charm.
Pro: Different plans
I’m optimistic about the future of Sinemia, particularly because they haven’t yet set unrealistic price points and they aren’t constantly changing their plans, like MoviePass does.
When MoviePass began introducing monthly memberships as low as $6.99, it turned a lot of heads and helped them gain new users, but it also set an unsustainable price point that quickly led to trouble.
Sinemia, on the other hand, offers a wide variety of plans at price points that make sense; they offer plans that range from just one movie a month to a movie every day. Users also have the option of plans that give them 2 or 3 movie tickets a month.
By offering such a wide variety of plans with different pricing, Sinemia successfully caters to a wider user base. For some, a couple movies a month is enough and they have plans to cover that.
Con: Check in process
Sinemia currently requires users to “check in” for their movie within a certain timeframe around their showtime. At face value, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. The problem, however, is that if you don’t check in, Sinemia says they might charge the user for the cost of the ticket.
In this case, you better be sure to set a reminder to check in. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get to the theater and be so wrapped up in finding your seat, getting your concessions, and running to the bathroom one last time that you completely forget to check in.
The check in function is location-based, using the location of your smartphone to ensure that you are actually at the theater you bought a ticket for. It’s a natural accountability measure, but it’s frustrating that Sinemia restricts the check-in time; miss that window and you’re out of luck.
Con: Poor app interface
The issues with checking in are compounded by the app’s truly terrible interface. The interface is neither aesthetically pleasing or user-friendly. If Sinemia wants to impress their users, they need to invest in a serious overhaul of the app.
The current process for getting an advance ticket walks you through several different screens before you finally get to the page that generates credit card information that you use to purchase the ticket (Should you do the Advance Ticketing option). Even then, Sinemia forces users to third party ticketing services. If you’re buying tickets on your smartphone, this forces you to toggle back and forth between the ticket service and the Sinemia app to ensure you’ve entered the payment information in correctly.
It’s by no means impossible, but for new and unfamiliar users, it takes a few tries to get the swing of it. The poor interface is likely to put some people off and it’s an obvious sign of the service’s need for improvement.
We recommend ordering Sinemia’s physical card — it’s a lot easier.
Ultimately, for avid and regular moviegoers, the benefits of Sinemia outweigh the logistical difficulties that accompany subscription-based movie ticketing services. These services face an uphill battle as they fight to preserve the moviegoing experience by making it more affordable for audiences. In my opinion, that’s an admirable goal and one I’m happy to participate in for as long as possible.
There comes a too-good-to-be-true feeling with being a Sinemia subscriber. Considering how quickly MoviePass fell from grace, it’s naive to believe Sinemia will avoid the same fate. However, with more sustainable price points, I’m optimistic that Sinemia will avoid falling into MoviePass’s trap.
In the end, any Sinemia review will likely come to the same conclusion: it’s a great service marred by logistical difficulties that are worth enduring for the huge cost savings.