Sinemia has emerged as a cheap MoviePass alternative, but it has hidden fees and awful customer service
- Sinemia is an affordable MoviePass alternative that has comparable features and pricing without some of MoviePass' more annoying restrictions.
- But Sinemia's fee structure is not well explained on its website and it has unresponsive customer service.
- Sinemia should be clearer with its customers about pricing, especially since it offers an attractive model for movie fans.
When MoviePass introduced its cap of three movies a month in August, as a customer, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I'd been reporting on MoviePass for months and understood the precariousness of its financial situation, and that it was hemorrhaging money by buying full-price tickets for super users who made moviegoing a sport.But then the restrictions on which movies I could see with MoviePass, and the removal of many eligible showtimes from the app, began to frustrate me (though many subscribers still like it). I looked for an alternative and found Sinemia, a movie-ticket subscription service that, like MoviePass, isn't tied to a specific chain like AMC Stubs A-List.
And while my experience with Sinemia has been largely positive, there's a central issue I ran into that prospective customers should be aware of before signing up - and that gave me a bit of a flashback to my MoviePass horror stories.
Here come the sneaky fees
In August, Sinemia was running a monthly promotion that gave me a plan comparable to MoviePass: $9.99 for three movies a month, but without the restrictions on movies or showtimes. I was on board and signed up.
I downloaded the app and poked around. The design was cluttered and confusing, but eventually I came to a section that explained there were two ways of using Sinemia: with a card and cardless.
The card option supposedly worked much the same as MoviePass, where you check into a movie and then use your Sinemia debit card to pay at the theater. This, the app said, included no extra fees besides my monthly $9.99. The second way was "cardless." Using that option I could buy my ticket online in advance, but I would have to pay the online ticketing convenience fee myself ($1.50 the first time I used it).
I finally reached out to a PR representative for the company in my capacity as a journalist on November 2, and was told that Sinemia had been cardless "by default" since June, though the app and promotional material still refer to it as an advance ticket "option" and a cardless "feature," and there is still a whole section in the FAQ in my app dedicated to how to use your Sinemia card:
"Upon introducing the Cardless feature, Sinemia saw that using Cardless through Sinemia's advanced ticket feature was the most popular way for subscribers to get their tickets, so Sinemia went Cardless by default in June 2018," a Sinemia spokeswoman said. "Additionally, Sinemia is working on a feature that will allow customers to request a physical Sinemia card through their app before the end of 2018."
Given that cardless is the only option right now for new customers, when I look at the pricing guide on Sinemia's website, it feels misleading. The website clearly spells out your monthly fee (and your sign-up fee, if you choose to be billed monthly and not yearly), but details about the convenience fee appear either buried in the FAQ page, or in fine print before you pay for a plan - without an estimate of how much they'll be.
If you are going to be getting hit with that fee every time, it would be more honest of Sinemia to note that in the section that explains the two other ways you're going to get charged money right on the front of its website.
I still have high hopes for Sinemia, but the confusing terms and lack of customer service are reminding me of the worst of MoviePass.
If you have any information about Sinemia, or have a story about your experience with the service, contact the author at email@example.com.