The dream of theatrical movie subscription services might be over, as Sinemia announced that has ceased its U.S. operations effective immediately.
In an official statement, Sinemia, which was one of the largest competitors to the infamously flakey MoviePass, cites funding issues, increased competition as theaters launch their own movie subscription plans and the cost of “unexpected legal proceedings” as the reasons for its closure. Over the past few months, Sinemiafaced lawsuits from subscribers who objected to the addition of a surprise processing fee, and MoviePass, which claims that Sinemia violates its patents.
It’s not clear what Sinemia’s U.S. closure means for the service in territories like the U.K., Canada, and Australia, where Sinemia built an audience before launching in America. Sinemia also didn’t say whether or not customers who prepaid for subscriptions will receive refunds. Previously, Sinemia customers had to pay for an entire year’s worth of service in order to avoid a $20 “initiation fee.”
Sinemia’s closure is another blow to the struggling movie subscription service industry, which promises subscribers that they can see a certain number of movies a month in theaters by paying a flat, discounted fee. MoviePass, which was founded in 2011, rose to fame on the strength of its $10 monthly plan, which allowed subscribers to view one movie in theaters every day.
That model proved unsustainable, and MoviePass quickly lost customers’ trust by implementing unexpected and byzantine rules for what people could and couldn’t watch, removing the most popular films from the service, adding “surge pricing” during the busiest times at the theaters, and other shady business practices. Recently, Sinemia has faced similar complaints from subscribers, thanks to hidden fees and problems with its app, which is necessary to use the service.
Not every movie subscription plan is a bust. AMC Stubs A-List, which lets subscribers see three movies a month in AMC theaters, continues to grow. Despite MoviePass and Sinema’s troubles, Infinity and Atom Theaters are prepping their own movie subscription services, while MoviePass’ co-founder is launching PreShow, a dystopian-sounding service that rewards customers with free movie tickets for watching 20 minutes worth of advertisements.
Still, the future of theatrical subscription programs doesn’t seem particularly bright, and if you really want a near-unlimited supply of movies for a single fee, you might want to check out Netflix.