There have been a few startup companies that began offering monthly memberships to watch movies at theaters with a steep discount. MoviePass was the first service that I ever heard of to offer this. I was thinking about signing up for them, but I started seeing a flood of complaints about them nearly everywhere on the internet.
A while later I started hearing positive impressions about a new competitor to MoviePass called “Sinemia”, which promised to use a more realistic and sustainable business model. MoviePass originally offered “unlimited” movies to watch per month, which ended up backfiring on them when many customers milked that for it’s worth. They eventually started adding more and more limitations to how many movies you could watch until there was a severe backlash from their large customer base.
Sinemia’s more transparent approach was to simply say “we’re offering movies for $5 per ticket”. I signed up for a “family plan” that allowed me to get 4 tickets for $20 per month. That seemed perfect to cover me and my family. Going to the movies only once per month was fine by me, because there was only one must-see movie that hit the theater per month, if anything.
Everything started out smooth. I live near a theater where you can reserve your seat online, and I liked the idea that you can use the Sinemia app in conjunction with the Atom movie tickets app. One downside to reserving the ticket though, was that you had to pay a $1 “convenience fee” for each ticket on the account. So that $20 per month actually ended up costing me $24. The other thing that I didn’t care for was that the service itself wasn’t a monthly charge of $20 per month, I actually had to pay for the entire year up front. I felt a little uneasy about making a 1-year commitment to a service that I was unsure about, but I decided to try it since their business model and customer satisfaction seemed like everything was great. I simply liked the idea of paying $6 per ticket instead of the usual $12 or more.
During my first few months of service, I decided to take a look at my credit card statement, and here is what all of my Sinemia charges looked like:
After using the service regularly each month, there was one time I completely forgot to “check-in” while I was at the theater. The check-in process felt like an unnecessary hassle. Sometimes when you are rushing to the theater with your family, it’s easy to be distracted with buying soda and popcorn and checking to see if the kids need to empty their bladders before the movie starts. I was caught up with all of that commotion and I completely forgot to open up the Sinemia app and “check-in” to the theater. It wasn’t a huge deal, I contacted Sinemia support and told them what happened and they understood.
I had another check-in issue a couple of months later where the app needed to be updated and I didn’t realize it. I kept getting an error while checking in while I was at the theater. The movie was getting ready to start, so I had no choice but to contact customer service to handle it later. Wasn’t a big deal overall, because their customer service department was quick to reply.
Things started to get worse though. I looked at my credit card statement and I started noticing a new “fee” appearing that I never noticed before or agreed to. It was a “processing” fee that added an additional $1.80 per ticket. This is what my new credit card statement looked like:
So now I was being charged an additional $7.20 on top of the two $2.00 fees each and every month, which adds up to $31.20 per month for this service as a whole. That works out to be $7.80 per ticket, which technically works out to be cheaper than buying tickets the “old fashioned” way, but it still didn’t seem right for them to retroactively add a new fee when I should have already been “grandfathered in” with what I originally signed up for. I was originally expecting this to cost me $20 per month and now I am paying an extra 50% in various fees.
I decided to just grit my teeth and not pitch a huge fit about this. What can I do really? Dispute it with my credit card company and pray that Sinemia doesn’t retaliate in some unexpected way? I felt like my best course of action was to continue using the service and to just not renew once my 1-year membership was over. I’m still saving money, right?
Fast forward to February 9th, 2019, which felt like doomsday for many Sinemia customers. I scheduled to watch a movie on that date and everything seemed fine until I went to check-in at the theater. I felt like a pro at the process at this point; open app, check-in, specify what movie you are watching, click on the “submit” button and… CLICK ON THE SUBMIT BUTTON AND…. “uh oh. I can’t check-in for some reason. Does the app need to be updated?” I thought. Nope, everything is up-to-date. I kept trying repeatedly to check-in, but my wife and daughter were getting annoyed that the movie was about to start and that I needed to put my phone away, and so I did.
After the movie, I kept messing with the app and clicked on the check-in submit button and THEN it finally worked, but the problem with doing that was that it was already too late to check-in. I then got a warning message that I missed the check-in time and that I had to pay a “misuse fee”, which means that I owe them the full price for the theater tickets. The convenience and processing fees are not refundable, AND I forfeit my 4 tickets for that month as well. Talk about kicking you while you are down! So for that month I was screwed out of $40.87, even though I technically paid $31.20 for that month of “service”. Suddenly, it started to appear that I was no longer saving money on movie tickets.
I went to Sinemia’s website and decided to investigate further. Apparently, there is a new “ID check” that they are enforcing on each customer. If you don’t send them a photo copy of your drivers license and a separate picture of you holding a copy of your drivers license, they will lock you out of your account. They decided to enforce this rule after I had already booked and scheduled a movie, so they essentially locked me out from checking-in while I was at the theater. How was any of this my fault? They never contacted me about needing my ID and I didn’t know about it until I dug through my profile settings on Sinemia’s website.
Like the idiot customer that I am, I decided to just play-along with their new curve ball that they threw at me and I gave them what they wanted in hopes that I could get this “misuse fee” taken care of. I had a smooth experience with customer service in the past, so I figured I would hit them up. Unfortunately, I never received a response. I contacted them on Twitter, Facebook, and tried emailing them directly. Still no response. Apparently, this problem is so widespread, their customer service department can’t keep up with all of the complaints. I looked on Reddit, and the amount of complaints piling up are giving me flashbacks of when everyone complained about MoviePass.
About 2 days later, I finally heard back from them on Twitter. I never received an email, but on Twitter they apologized for the delayed response and removed the misuse fee. I was relived for about a month or so, but that’s when I ran into another issue.
On April 2nd, I found out that tickets for Avengers: Endgame were finally on sale. I was excited to pre-order my tickets. I first went on the Atom tickets app and found that there were tons of seats available, because it was still in the early morning. I then went on the Sinemia app and began the process to schedule my movie. Everything seemed to work fine until I went to the screen to select my theater. I saw an “unknown error!” message. I tried again about a dozen times and checked to see if it was my internet connection, but nothing worked.
What a nightmare this company has turned into. After dealing with their lack of customer service, hidden fees, and realizing that I’m barely saving any money, I decided to cancel my membership. That was a fun process also! I had to jump through multiple pages that kept bribing me to keep my service, offering me better rates, more movies at a cheaper price, and other offers that sounded too good to be true. I clicked “no thanks, cancel” about 4 times, which made my cancellation request feel even more justified.
It makes me feel horrible to think that I was initially recommending this service to my friends and family. Thankfully, everyone I recommended the service to seemed skeptical about signing up and never did. I honestly had a good experience for the most part, but the past several months has ruined the entire experience for me.
Do yourself a favor, if you were thinking about signing up for any of these movie subscription services, I strongly recommend to sign up for one that has a solid reputation behind it, such as AMC. I would avoid Sinemia and MoviePass like the plague. I personally might just go back to buying discounted tickets from a warehouse store like Costco.
Do you use any of these movie ticket services? Curious what experiences you’ve had or what you might recommend. Let me know!