Product Review: Sinemia
We take a look at another subscription service for going to the movies. Sinemia has some merits, but has all of the downsides of 2017-era MoviePass with very little of its upsides.
I’ve briefly commented (in a suitably passive-aggressive manner) on falling out of love with MoviePass. I always knew the too good to be true structure of the service was going to blow up in someone’s face; MoviePass management made sure it was the customers’. Having relocated to a new state, I was getting almost zero usage of the service; the cinema-to-me density was much lower, and MoviePass’s decision to play whack-a-mole with which movies you could watch made it impossible.
So in a fit of rage I ditched MoviePass. I then signed up to their competitor Sinemia, in a fit of rage. Then I waited forever for my card, in a fit of rage. Finally it was here: my new membership. Then I found out that all the movie theaters that were affiliated with Sinemia wouldn’t work, as the service required you to buy your tickets online, and none of the local theaters sold online tickets through any vendor. I then followed Sinemia’s twitter profile, in a fit of rage, to find out what the hell had happened.
It turns out that Sinemia had ditched their physical card + app based sign-in program without making it at all apparent on their website. I had prepaid for a year of service that I couldn’t use. Hooray. Luckily, twitter is the perfect place to let a company know how much you wish they would fly into the sun for their shady practices, and the horde had my back. In December they reinstated their card program, and all I had to do was pay them more money, and wait… again.
Well, I have the fucking card, and I have the fucking time, so I finally used the service. How is Sinemia? Mehhhhhhhh…
How It Works (When It Does)
Sinemia is a subscription service that lets you watch 1, 2, 3, or 30 movies a month. Wow… that escalated quickly. For as little as $3.99 a month, and as much as $28.99/month you can enjoy blackout-date-free movies. You can even upgrade to premium, which allows you to watch 3D/IMAX movies, something MoviePass hadn’t been offering at the time.
You can buy your tickets online through any online vendor, although they prefer you use Atom Tickets. Be aware, you will pay for the service fee yourself using this method. If you buy a ticket online, Sinemia will bill you for the service fee. If you pay a one time fee (I think it was $20), you get a physical card mailed to you. You can use the app to check-in to a local theater and the card will pay for the movie. It will also become your virtual CC in case you want to still purchase a ticket ahead of time online (yup, you still pay the fee).
Sinemia is nowhere near as great a bargain as MoviePass was. At the lowest tiers you are basically getting half off a ticket (less than half if you incur online fees), and if you are some sort of psychopath you can watch 30 movies for a buck a flick. It is much harder to feel like you’re getting solid value.
Add that in to the wait times to activate your account and get your card, and you’re starting to see a program that basically just takes the sting off of seeing a movie for full price. And about that wait time… I waited over a month to have my program activated (signed up in August), although I could have shortened that to two weeks… you guessed it… for a $7 dollar fee. Once I got my membership, it sat lifeless until the end of December, when my card came in. If you subtract those dead times out of my yearly plan, I’m maybe getting %10-15 off my ticket prices, if I make sure to go see two movies a month for the remainder of the year. Yuck.
“But Mr. Dumbass (as my twitter eggs affectionately call me), why didn’t you just opt for the card in the first place?”. The answer? I thought I did. Nowhere on the site was it made clear that my plan no longer had physical check-ins. Hell, I thought the $7 fee was an option to get my card faster (remember my MoviePass trauma?). Why do they need extra money to turn on my app and send me a fucking email in a timely fashion?
Nuclear Rant Detected
I fucking hate Twitter. Not only is it the leading candidate for starting nuclear Armageddon, every company on earth now uses it as their de facto FAQ/Customer Service/Current News provider. It’s lazy. It’s also an excuse to be as opaque as possible with your website. I never would have found out that Sinemia was cardless, until they tweeted that they were going with a card again. This was in November. Months of trying to find out why I had no card via email or their website was useless.
Just Stop It already.
Does It Work?
Now it does. But that’s of little solace to anyone caught in the cardmuda triangle that was last year. Checking in is easy, and every step has a pictorial showing you exactly what to do. I tend to prefer MoviePass’s layout, but this one isn’t labyrinthine at all. I’ve been to two of the four theaters supported in my area, and each one was a breeze.
If you like 3D or IMAX, Sinemia basically turns watching those movies into a Matinee-priced affair. It’s not a steal, but that probably means the company won’t suddenly start screwing with you to save money when their funding runs out. If you only want to see a few movies a month, it’s better than paying full price, but beware: I’m sure I’m not the only one that lost a lot of value “in the mail”.
I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly, but now that the physical card system is back, Sinemia is a tolerable solution to people that don’t trust MoviePass. If you’re a casual theater goer, just hit a matinee. If you’re slightly above that, Sinemia will be in your wheelhouse. If you watch 30 movies in a theater every month, get help. I do this for a job, and even I don’t go that often.