In the wake of MoviePass' controversies, there was room for competitors to slide in and steal the limelight. Sinemia is one of those services. It's sometimes just as confusing to use as MoviePass, but some benefits can make it worth it whether you're switching from MoviePass or want an alternative option for cheaper movie tickets each month.
Before jumping into the details about the different plans and their fine print, it's worth stating that Sinemia has mobile apps for both Android and iPhone users, so you'll be able to use the movie subscription service no matter which smartphone model you have. For Android users, you need to have Android 4.2 and up, and for iPhone users, the app works on iOS 9 and up.
As of now, Sinemia is running a holiday sale, where "all-week" plans range from $4.99 each month to $29.99. Typically, these plans run from $12.99 all the way up to $89.99, according to Sinemia. However, before the holiday sale, there was a fall sale offering similar discounts, so expect Sinemia to stray from its initial asking price frequently.
Sinemia also offers "weekday-only" plans for 20 percent off. So the $4.99/month plan would be $3.99/month instead, and the $29.99 one would be $23.99, at the current holiday prices. However, the weekday plans can only be used on Monday through Thursday, not Friday or the weekend. Keep in mind that if you go for a plan you need to pay monthly, the price may increase after the promotion is over.
- 1 Classic: $4.99/mo. or $3.99/mo. for weekdays only
- 3 Classic: $8.99/mo. or $7.99/mo. for weekdays only
- 30 Classic: $29.99/mo. or $23.99/mo. for weekdays only
- 2 Elite: $12.99/mo. or $10.99/mo. for weekdays only
- 3 Elite: $17.99/mo. or $14.99/mo. for weekdays only
There are also family plans galore. Almost every regular plan has a corresponding family plan (the 30 movies per month classic plan is not available), where you can choose from 2–6 members.
For family plans, there is a catch; If your plan is for six people, you can go to a movie with five friends and family members, which is excellent, but if you go by yourself, that still counts as one movie off your allotted amount. For this reason, individual accounts may make more sense.
- 1 Classic: Add $5 per person or $4 per person for weekdays only
- 3 Classic: Add $9 per person or $7 per person for weekdays only
- 30 Classic: Not available
- 2 Elite: Add $5 to $13 per person or $4 to $11 per person for weekdays only
- 3 Elite: Add $10 to $18 per person or $8 to $15 per person for weekdays only
Depending on the plan you choose, you can see up to 1, 2, 3, or 30 movies a month, either 2D movies only for classic plans or 2D and 3D films plus one premium format each month (IMAX, IMAX 3D, XD, Dolby Atmos, ScreenX, Dbox, and 4DX) for elite plans.
- 1 Classic: 1 standard 2D movie each month
- 3 Classic: 3 standard 2D movies each month
- 30 Classic: 30 standard 2D movies each month
- 2 Elite: 2 standard 2D or 3D movies each month (1 can be premium)
- 3 Elite: 3 standard 2D or 3D movies each month (1 can be premium)
Unlike MoviePass, you pick when you want to see your chosen movie, and there are no funky showtime exclusions. (Note: MoviePass has new plan options for 2019 that lifts restrictions.) Every showtime for every acceptable movie format at nearly every theater in the US is available.
Plus, if you have an annual plan, you can reserve tickets up to 30 days in advance online while monthly payers can reserve a ticket online up until their next billing date. However, only one ticket can be actively booked at a time, so you can't reserve a ticket for next month and also see a movie the same evening or any time in between.
When using your Sinemia debit card that Sinemia provides for a fee, you can check into a movie when you're at the theater, then pay for it at the box office. That's precisely how MoviePass' in-theater purchases work.
If you want a more convenient option, you can reserve your tickets online via the app with the "Advanced Ticket" feature. You will be paying third-party providers which is a little confusing, especially if you're used to MoviePass' e-ticketing, and that undoubtedly makes it the worst part of the Sinemia experience.
Pick the movie you want to see, select "Watch," then choose either "Atom," "Movietickets," or "Other ticket selling website" from the Choose Service page. Next, head to the app of the service you want to use (I usually use Cinemark) and find the time and format for the film. Once you're good, tap "Found great seats for the movie" in the Sinemia app. You will need to choose the date, the time of the showing, its format, and how many users will be going with you if you have a family plan.
Once you tap "Reserve Ticket," you'll be taken to the confirmation screen. If you have a family plan but the whole family is not going, you'll get a popup beforehand which states that your movie will be used no matter how many users are going. On the Confirm page, tap "Confirm." If it's your first time using the service, your digital "card" will be activated, which you can use for all future purchases.
After you've got your digital cardless info, go back to the app you're going to use to purchase the tickets. For me, I use Cinemark since there's a theater near me and because I subscribe to Cinemark Movie Club, which means no convenience fees. When you go to see the movie, you need to print out the tickets from the third-party provider or view them in its app to get into the actual theater.
One the day of your showtime, the app will give you prompts and notifications throughout the day reminding you to check in after you get to the theater. You have a one-hour window to check in — 30 minutes before the start time and 30 minutes after. When at the theater, pull up the Sinemia app, go to the "Watch" tab, and your Advanced Ticket will be right there for you to select.
Tap on "Check in" or "OK" to prove your at the theater (location services must be enabled), depending on the prompt, then you'll get a "Check-in Successful" popup. After, you can view your current ticket via the red bar at the top of the app, which will confirm that the check-in went without a hitch.
Like MoviePass, this check-in is a fraud-prevention feature. While you don't check in before you pay for online sales (you do need to check in prior to using a physical card at a theater), it is required to check in to verify that you went to the movies instead of sold the tickets for a higher price. If you don't check in, Sinemia may bill you for the full price of the ticket.
While Sinemia does have a cash flow problem just like MoviePass, it's never an issue with interrupting service, as Sinemia baked in additional fees beyond the monthly plan charges that help keep things running smoothly. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of all the fees Sinemia has, I'll sum it up in a nice bullet list. Jump below it to get more details on each fee mentioned.
- Membership Initiation fee: $19.99 or $29.99 for billed-monthly plans
- Physical debit card: Optional $14.99 fee instead of just cardless service
- Account acceleration: Optional $9.99 to start using your new account sooner
- Processing fees: $1.80 for each ticket on online reservations
- Convenience fees: $1.50, give or take, for each ticket when ordering online
If you don't want to dive in with a one-time charge for a yearly plan, which is the same price as monthly only multiplied by 12, you will have to pay a "Membership Initiation" fee of $29.99 for the most expensive monthly plan or $19.99 for all other monthly plans. If it's a family plan, that fee is multiplied by the number of total people on the plan, which would be fairly expensive. But that's not all.
Sinemia was primarily a cardless service until recently, which means there's no physical debit card provided by Sinemia for most people. As of Nov. 29, 2018, Sinemia began offering actual cards again, but more on that later. For those not using cards, it means you have to reserve movies on your phone, however, not in the Sinemia app.
To reserve tickets, you have to use services like Atom, Fandango, or the theater's app (Sinemia will offer in-app purchases via third parties sometime in December 2018), all of which charge convenience fees of varying amounts that you have to pay. It could end up being $1.50, give or take, in convenience charges each time. However, if you are also an AMC Stubs A-List or Cinemark Movie Club member and purchase from those apps, those fees are waived.
Speaking of cardless, Sinemia also offers an "Accelerated Activation." Normally, it takes between one and two weeks to start using the plan, but it can be accelerated to instant use with a one-time $9.99 fee. When you want a physical card during signup, this $9.99 optional fee also applies unless you are already a paying member.
Speaking of the physical debit card that Sinemia lets you have, you will have to pay a one-time $14.99 for the card itself, which could take weeks to arrive at your home. That could be sped up with the accelerated activation option.
Aside from convenience and activation fees, Sinemia also charges a $1.80 processing fee for each ticket reserved online. If you have a card and you want to reserve ahead of time from your phone, you'll still incur those fees. However, you can avoid both the convenience and processing fees by purchasing your ticket at the theater right before the showtime, but take that with a grain of salt.
Sinemia's website states that it "covers the online convenience and processing fees for physical card users unless told otherwise. Sinemia reserves the right to make changes to applicable fees and introduce new rules at any time." What does that mean? Well, Sinemia could still charge $1.80 per ticket when using a card at the theater, but as of right now, it doesn't.
Sinemia does not offer concession discounts, nor a points system, which is no surprise. However, there are coupons available as "Privileges," which are mostly food discounts at businesses possibly around the theater you'll be going to. Sometimes, however, concessions discounts will pop up.
The service doesn't allow discounts on additional tickets once you've seen your allotted amount of films, and there are no discounts on friends' tickets when they tag along. Sinemia does have a referral program, so that's something. There are many ways to refer people to Sinemia via the app, and it accesses your contacts to let you proceed. When referring, they are automatically sent as text messages, so you can't refer via email for some reason.
When it comes to canceling reservations, if you're going to use the physical card to pay at a theater, you can check in, then cancel the check-in at any time if you change your mind. When reserving an Advanced Ticket online, canceling is definitely not as easy. Since the tickets are actually purchased via a third-party provider, you have to try and cancel the reservation from that specific provider. Then, if you're able to do so, you can contact Sinemia so they can check for the refund on the card and give you back your credit.
While MoviePass' support is not the best, its service is better than Sinemia's, so don't expect to get a hold of someone when you're having issues at a theater. Unlike MoviePass, there is no in-app chat available, and you need to contact representatives via email or its Twitter page. However, Sinemia is very transparent with its plans and stated that there will be fewer errors when buying tickets and that they have increased their chat support, so hopefully, it's smooth running from now on.
Your entire history is accessible via the "Profile" tab in the app. Just ap on your name up top, then choose "Watched with Sinemia" to see all of your watched films with the service. Watched titles will also appear in the "Watched" list, and you can add movies seen outside the Sinemia service to this list as well. You also get a "Watchlist" to keep track of films you'd like to see.
Plus, you can make your custom lists as well. To create a list, tap "Add to list" from a movie page, then the "+" button up top. Create the new list, then you can add any movie to it. Custom lists can also be accessed via your profile page. By default, all lists are private, but you can make them public too. And you'll get notifications whenever films on any of your lists are available in theaters, new or old.
Sinemia also has a pretty decent social angle built into the app. You can view news articles and rate movies you've watched with stars from one to ten. There's also a thumbs up (or love/heart) rating you can give, as well as a thumbs down. You can add quick reviews as comments on a movie's page in the app, take selfies with filter overlays of the movie title or theater, use AR filters to shoot lively videos, and follow other users. If you want to remain private, you can also choose that in the settings.
You can also connect your Facebook profile. I could not get the Facebook linking to work in the app, but was able to do it from the web interface, though that still didn't help me view Facebook friends in the app. That might be because I don't have any Facebook friends using Sinemia though.
Once you have some friends in the app, either found via Facebook or manually chosen elsewhere in the app, you can follow your friends' activity via the "Live" tab under "Following." You can also see all of your activity there in its "You" tab. With friends, you can also figure out what movie and showtime to view together by voting.
Other in-app perks include quick access to Uber to get a ride and a comparison tool to help you figure out what times and theaters work with your schedule the best.
It might have too many options, but on the surface, Sinemia is a noble evolution of MoviePass' original vision. Take a look at their different price points, and see if any work for your movie-going needs. Think long and hard about whether the carded or cardless option is best for you, whether going with a family plan or individual plans is the greatest cost savings, and if the fees still put you out on top.
Now that MoviePass has announced new 2019 plans, some of which remove movie title and showtime restrictions, Sinemia might finally have some good competition. For instance, the $14.95/month all-access plan coming soon from MoviePass can compete against Sinemia's classic plan for three movies each month. MoviePass is $14.95 for the month, period, while Sinemia, counting processing and convenience fees for each movie, could go from $8.99/month to over $17 easy.
You really have to do the math on this one. For instance, if you only plan on watching one movie each month, the $4.99 classic plan is a good option, but if you want to freedom to reserve the tickets online versus in the theater right before the movie, you might end up paying around $8.29 for that ticket. If your local theater charges less than that for an evening movie, then it's not worth it.
If you ever decide to cancel, you can join again right away if you change your mind, which is a big plus compared to services like MoviePass and AMC Stubs A-List. However, one area where MoviePass is better than Sinemia — the former lets you change devices every 30 days, but the latter is only three times throughout your whole subscription.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' annual Movies & TV on Mobile special coverage. Read all of the Movies & TV on Mobile coverage.