Going to the movies can be an expensive hobby, especially for frequent filmgoers. That‘s why movie ticket subscription services have become so popular in recent years. For a monthly fee, you can see multiple films in theaters for a fraction of the normal box office cost. It‘s a great budget-friendly option for cinephiles.
Two of the biggest players in the subscription space are Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List. But which one is the better choice for most subscribers? Which program truly provides the best bang for your buck along with a quality moviegoing experience?
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll compare these two subscription services in-depth. You‘ll learn all about their key features, limitations, perks, theater availability, and more. After reviewing the pros and cons of each, you‘ll have all the insights needed to determine the superior service. Let‘s dive in!
A Brief History of Movie Ticket Subscriptions
Before analyzing Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List specifically, it helps to understand the rise of movie ticket subscriptions overall.
The recent popularity of subscription services can largely be traced back to the incredible success story of MoviePass. Launched in 2011 with little fanfare, MoviePass initially charged up to $50 per month to see a limited selection of films. But they completely overhauled their model in August 2017, allowing subscribers to see unlimited movies in theaters for just $9.95 per month.
This radical change caused MoviePass subscriptions to skyrocket, reaching over 3 million members by June 2018 according to Business Insider. However, the service was hemorrhaging money, losing north of $20 million per month as subscribers saw way more movies than expected. Unable to find a sustainable financial model, MoviePass ultimately shut down in September 2019.
Though MoviePass flamed out fast, it demonstrated the enormous consumer demand for flexible, affordable movie ticket subscriptions. Major theater chains took notice, developing their own competing subscription programs with lessons learned from MoviePass‘s shortcomings.
While subscriptions had existed previously, the huge success of MoviePass was a tipping point. Services like AMC Stubs A-List, Regal Unlimited, Cinemark Movie Club, and Alamo Season Pass were all launched in the wake of MoviePass mania.
Now let‘s explore the background and offerings of Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List specifically.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Background
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema originated in Austin, Texas in 1997. Founded by Tim and Karrie League, Alamo pioneered an upscale dine-in theater concept, allowing patrons to order meals and drinks from extensive menus right from their seats. The Austin location also housed an eclectic video rental store called I Luv Video.
Over two decades, Alamo Drafthouse has expanded to over 40 locations across the United States. The company focuses on curating a premium moviegoing experience from start to finish. Talking and texting during films is strictly prohibited. Auditoriums showcase state-of-the-art sound systems and projection.
Along with new releases, Alamo Drafthouse is known for programming cult classics, niche independents, foreign films, retrospectives, and other unique content. Quentin Tarantino once called Alamo theaters "the best theaters in America" for serious cinephiles.
Despite popularity with movie buffs, Alamo Drafthouse has faced financial hurdles recently. Due to prolonged COVID-19 closures and leasing issues, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2021. Thankfully, Alamo has since emerged from bankruptcy and appears to be back on stable footing after restructuring debts.
Alamo rolled out its Season Pass subscription program in February 2020, just before the pandemic temporarily shuttered theaters nationwide. The service starts at $16.99 per month (plus fees) and includes one regularly priced 2D movie ticket per day.
The Juggernaut of AMC Stubs A-List
With over 600 locations and 8,000 screens globally according to Variety, AMC Theatres is the largest movie theater operator in the United States and the world. The company dates back over 100 years to the early 20th century.
AMC moved swiftly to counter the meteoric rise of MoviePass, launching its own subscription program called AMC Stubs A-List in June 2018. For between $19.95 to $24.95 per month depending on location, members can see up to 3 movies per week including IMAX and 3D showings.
According to AMC CEO Adam Aron, A-List subscriptions surpassed 800,000 members as of October 2019 well ahead of projections. In an industry earnings call, Aron stated A-List was "by far AMC‘s most successful loyalty program ever."
AMC also innovated premium experiences like IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and D-BOX motion seating. The chain bet big on theatrical exclusives during the pandemic, signing landmark deals with Universal, Warner Bros., and Disney. Lately, AMC has explored new revenue sources like selling popcorn online and home rentals.
Now let‘s see how Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List stack up head-to-head across some key facets.
Alamo vs. AMC: Side-By-Side Comparison
Here‘s an at-a-glance overview highlighting the core features and limitations of Alamo Season Pass versus AMC Stubs A-List:
|Alamo Season Pass||AMC Stubs A-List|
|Price Per Month||$16.99-$29.99 plus fees||$19.95-$24.95|
|Monthly Movies||1 per day||3 per week|
|Premium Formats||Extra fees||Included|
|Reservations||2 movies max 7 days out||3 movies anytime|
|Concessions||No discounts||10% discount|
As this comparison shows, AMC Stubs A-List provides greater flexibility for frequent moviegoers regarding tickets per month, premium formats, and reservations. But Alamo Season Pass offers a cheaper entry price point in select markets.
Beyond the basics, there are more complex differences between these services worth analyzing.
Key Differentiators Between Alamo and AMC Subscriptions
Upcharges and Added Fees
One advantage of AMC Stubs A-List is the total lack of convenience fees or upcharges after signing up. As long as you stick to your 3 movies per week, everything is included.
By comparison, Alamo Season Pass subscribers pay a small convenience fee when making reservations. There are also surcharges for premium large format screens like IMAX. This nickle-and-diming adds up over time.
According to Alamo‘s own website, the most expensive locations like Los Angeles add fees of $1.99 per ticket. If you saw just one IMAX movie per month, that‘s an extra $6 tacked on. These extra costs diminish the value of Alamo‘s cheaper base subscription rate.
Another perk of A-List is its very flexible reservation system. Once tickets go on sale to the general public, you can reserve seats anytime without blackout dates. Alamo only allows Season Pass members to hold 2 reservations no more than 7 days in advance. Avid moviegoers may find Alamo‘s system too restrictive.
As one real A-List member stated in an AMC subreddit:
"I literally have movies booked through the end of the year because I can reserve them so far in advance. It’s glorious!"
With Alamo Season Pass, you‘d constantly have to wait for your reservation window to make new tickets.
AMC Stubs A-List members enjoy a 10% discount on all food and non-alcoholic beverage purchases. According to AMC, A-Listers save an average of $5 off concessions per transaction. Members also receive free size upgrades on popcorn and soda.
Alamo Season Pass includes no extra discounts for subscribers. You pay full price for tickets and concessions. Combined with Alamo‘s reservation limitations, the lack of perks reduces the overall value compared to AMC.
With over 600 theaters domestically, AMC obviously provides far greater convenience and accessibility for subscribers than Alamo‘s 40+ locations. Depending on your geography, Alamo‘s niche theaters may simply not be viable or entail lengthy drives.
As subscription analyst Mitch Lowe told Business Insider:
"AMC’s size gives it a major advantage over Alamo. It’s focused on breadth versus depth."
AMC‘s extensive nationwide footprint keeps them competitive.
How Alamo Season Pass Has Evolved
Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas launched its Season Pass subscription in February 2020 following the lead of AMC A-List. The timing seemed fortuitous at first. Alamo planned to leverage Season Pass as a membership program across all its locations, anticipating further expansion.
However, within weeks the COVID-19 pandemic forced abrupt cinema closures nationwide. After tentative reopenings in late 2020 and early 2021, Alamo struggled to rebound due to ongoing capacity limits, sanitization costs, and real estate issues.
Faced with mounting debts, Alamo voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2021. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company had accumulated over $114 million in lease liabilities during the pandemic. Court filings revealed Alamo had shuttered a handful of underperforming and outdated theaters.
Thankfully, Alamo successfully reorganized and emerged from bankruptcy by June 2021. The company was able to rework lease agreements and slash millions in debts, putting it on firmer ground going forward. Alamo has since reopened or debuted theaters in numerous markets like St. Louis, Washington D.C. and New York City.
Despite Alamo‘s financial rollercoaster ride, its Season Pass program survived completely intact even during bankruptcy proceedings. While subscriber numbers haven‘t been disclosed, the service likely proved vital in keeping cash flow afloat when capacity was limited. It will continue serving as a loyalty program and revenue driver as Alamo charts its post-bankruptcy future.
The Runaway Success of AMC A-List
Since launching June 2018, AMC Stubs A-List has widely been considered the movie ticket subscription service to beat. While MoviePass helped accelerate interest in subscriptions, its unlimited model was ultimately unsustainable.
AMC CEO Adam Aron has stated the company spent two years researching pricing, utilization rates, and key features before landing on A-List‘s structure. Their judicious market research appears to have paid off in spades.
Just one month after launch, A-List hit 175,000 sign-ups according to Business Insider – well beyond AMC‘s internal projections. Markets like New York and Los Angeles fueled early growth. As mentioned earlier, subscriptions eventually exceeded 800,000 members by October 2019 per AMC‘s own earnings reports.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed an existential threat to AMC as prolonged closures strained its finances. AMC narrowly avoided bankruptcy by taking on high-interest debt and leveraging stock offerings. Government pandemic relief funds also boosted liquidity.
But A-List subscribers largely stayed loyal despite closures. According to AMC CEO Adam Aron, 90% of A-List members chose to stick with the service rather than cancel or pause memberships. This commitment allowed AMC to survive and thrive as audiences felt comfortable returning.
AMC has capitalized on pent-up moviegoing demand, setting new attendance records in 2021 and 2022. The chain also inked landmark exclusivity deals with major studios during the pandemic, preventing films from shifting straight to streaming.
Now likely with over a million subscribers, A-List remains a juggernaut. Upcoming variable pricing won‘t impact members, locking in exceptional value. As one industry analyst told the Deseret News:
"AMC has something really solid with A-List. They‘re light years ahead of competitors."
Indeed, AMC perfected the art of subscription movie ticketing.
Pros and Cons of Each Service
Now that we‘ve extensively covered the history and key details of each program, let‘s summarize the core advantages and limitations of both Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List.
Alamo Season Pass
- Lower monthly fee than AMC in some markets
- Ability to add Extra Seat for couples
- Unique dining experience at Alamo theaters
- Diverse programming and retro screenings
- Very limited theater locations
- Restrictive advance reservation system
- Extra fees for premium formats and concessions
- No discounts for subscribers
AMC Stubs A-List
- Far more theater locations than Alamo for convenience
- No extra fees or format upcharges
- Discounts on concessions for members
- Very flexible, unlimited reservations
- Monthly fee higher than Alamo‘s base rate
- Not designed for couples or groups
- Mostly mainstream commercial films
Assessing these pros and cons makes it clear AMC Stubs A-List carries more benefits for the average subscriber seeking unlimited moviegoing. Alamo Season Pass does boast some niche advantages for retro movie buffs near an Alamo Drafthouse.
Which Is the Better Service Overall?
When all factors are weighed together, AMC Stubs A-List emerges as the superior movie ticket subscription service for most mainstream consumers. You simply get more for your money with A-List regarding theater availability, subscription flexibility, and extra perks.
However, Alamo Season Pass remains a potential fit for:
- Couples who can utilize the Extra Seat add-on
- Moviegoers near one of Alamo‘s 40 locations
- People who only see 1-2 movies per month
- Fans of retrospectives, cult films, and special programming
But for regular movie buffs who see multiple films per month, AMC A-List is easily the best choice overall thanks to its unlimited reservations system, wider theater access, and lack of convenience fees or upcharges after signup.
According to leading entertainment industry research firm MoffettNathanson, the math solidly favors A-List:
“AMC has structured its program to make it very accretive for the frequent moviegoer. Alamo’s program leaves a fair amount of upside even after the monthly fee, requiring further spend for the full experience.”
In the end, AMC developed the gold standard for movie ticket subscriptions after studying what worked and what didn‘t. That‘s why A-List keeps reaching new heights while competitors play catch-up.