AMC Theatres touted the profitability of its A-List ticket subscription program during its quarterly earnings call Thursday, reporting that the service added over 180,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2019 despite a steep lag in overall box office revenue and attendance.
That brings the number of subscribers to 785,000 — which is triple the number that MoviePass parent company Helios & Matheson reported in internal data, according to a February report by Business Insider. That’s a steep drop from the 3 million subscribers that MoviePass once had before cutting back on its membership benefits amid steep financial losses.
AMC’s A-List — which offers members the chance to see three movies per week for $19.95 per month, with no blackout dates and premium formats like IMAX included at no extra charge — is expected to hit 1 million subscribers well ahead of the company’s June 2020 estimate, AMC CEO Adam Aron said.
The exhibitor also expects additional growth in subscribers for the rest of the year, given the glut of highly-anticipated films like “The Lion King,” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Aron also said that subscribers frequently brought family and friends with them to theaters and bought tickets at standard price, further increasing the program’s profitability.
“Based on the average frequency of our A-List members, their associated full-price bring-along guest attendance, their food and beverage spend and the price increases in the first quarter, we believe the A-List program resulted in incremental profitability in the first quarter of 2019 compared to our estimated results if the program had not existed,” Aron said.
“We estimate a profit from the program of about $3 per member. That’s about $2.3 million in profits based on current subscriber counts.”
When the service was launched, AMC estimated that subscribers would need to use the A-List program to buy tickets an average of 2 1/2 to three times per month to maintain profitability. In the first quarter of 2019, Aron said the program hit that target range with subscriber usage at an average of 2.6 times per month.
This rate was maintained through April and the first week of May, a time span that includes the first two weekends of the theatrical run of “Avengers: Endgame.” AMC estimates that 73% of A-List members have used the service to see the record-breaking Marvel movie, which has grossed over $2.25 billion worldwide through two weeks in theaters and is set to pass “Avatar” as the highest grossing film of all time.
A-List’s steady success comes as more ambitious third-party services that boosted popularity of the ticket subscription model struggle to stay afloat. Shortly before the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” subscription site Sinemia announced it was shutting down U.S. operations, citing “competition in the U.S. market and the core economics of what it costs to deliver Sinemia’s end-to-end experience.”
MoviePass, which pushed subscription into the mainstream with its ambitions $9.95 per month plan that allowed access to any standard movie screening, hit a financial tailwind last year after reaching a peak of 3 million subscribers. The company’s fortunes quickly soured as major theater chains refused to work with the company, customers found the service difficult to use and the rules on what screenings subscribers could use the service to buy tickets for changed repeatedly.
Parent company Helios & Matheson was delisted from Nasdaq in February, and internal data obtained by Business Insider found that the service’s subscriber count has dropped to 225,000.