7 Lessons I Learned from Sinemia Closing Down

Good morning everyone, I hope your weekend is going well.  On Thursday, Sinemia posted the following note on their homepage alerting members that they would be ceasing operations in the United States immediately.  This happened on opening day of the biggest movie of the year – Avengers: Endgame.  This is very disappointing for many reasons (I was a big fan of Sinemia and went to 2-4 movies a month with my monthly plan).  After closing my MoviePass account and opening my Sinemia account in August 2018, I’ve seen Sinemia evolve and change in the 6-7 months since then.  I thought it would be interesting to review the warning signs and the 7 lessons I learned through the process.

Lesson 1: Unsustainable Prices

When I joined Sinemia in August 2018, here were the various monthly plans.  For $9.99 per month, I could see 3 movies.  I think my local movie theater charges $8-$10 per movie, so I just had to see 1 movie per month to break even and I would come out way ahead if I saw 2-3 movies per month.  Heck, for $3.99 per month, I could see 1 movie per month.  I’ve never seen movie tickets $4 or cheaper in my life.

Lesson 2: Pay Monthly, Not Yearly

My brother had a year-long MoviePass card that he got from Costco.  A few months after he got his MoviePass card, MoviePass started adding fees and made negative changes to the service.  Eventually he cancelled his MoviePass card and got a partial refund from Costco.  I learned that I didn’t want to bet on a future service (Sinemia) to be around and stay the same for a whole year, so I would go with a monthly plan and I could cancel if the service was no longer worth the monthly fee.

Lesson 3: Watch for Price Changes & Plan Changes

In November 2018, Sinemia offered weekday only plans that were 20% cheaper than any day plans.  Making many changes is a red flag that a service/company is not doing well.  On the flip side, if you followed lesson 2 (pay month by month), you could switch from a $9.99 monthly fee to a $8.99 monthly fee if that plan worked better for you.

Lesson 4: New (Hidden) Fees

In October 2018, Sinemia introduced a new fee: $1.80 processing fee per movie ticket, in addition to other online ordering fees.  When a service/company starts charging fees in addition to a clear monthly fee, that is another red flag.

Lesson 5: Increasing Fees

In December 2018, Sinemia offered a physical card that would allow you to purchase movie tickets at the theater and avoid the $1.80 per movie ticket fee mentioned in lesson 4 (hidden fees).  The fee was originally $14.99, but sometime later, Sinemia increased the fee to $24.99.  The fee was multiplied if you had a family plan and several physical cards were needed.  Increasing fee prices a few weeks after introducing a fee is another red flag.

Lesson 6: Big Discounts on Gift Cards & Deep Discounted Plans

In December 2018, Sinemia offered gift cards for 30% off face value.  This sounds like a great idea, or a Ponzi scheme to get cash into the business to keep the service/business running.  If you followed lesson 2 (paying month by month), you would not have bought a high dollar amount gift card.  Offering big discounts should be another red flag.

Very ironically, Sinemia recently sold “Limitless” membership plans with the tag line “It’s Come To An End”.  These plans were offering a 50% discount, which should be an even bigger red flag that Sinemia was becoming a Ponzi scheme and needed more cash to keep the service/business running.

Lesson 7: Enjoy the Service While it Lasts

Last but not least, I rode the MoviePass bandwagon for a long time and saw how quickly a service/company could go from unbelievably popular to hated by almost all members.  I believe it only took MoviePass 1-2 months to completely screw its members.  When I heard about Sinemia, I had a sense of deja vu and knew a service like this could not last forever.  Anytime there was a negative change, I would evaluate the new cost of doing business.  I would add up the monthly fees + service fees + hidden fees and divide that by the number of movies I watched per month to get an average cost per movie.  As long as the average cost per movie was cheaper than what I would pay without Sinemia, I justified it as “I’m still coming out ahead.”  But like most great things in life, everything has to come to an end and most things do not end quietly/peacefully.

I don’t hold any negative feelings toward MoviePass or Sinemia, they worked well for a while and I saw a ton of movies very cheaply.  If the services/businesses were managed better, I believe these companies could have survived, but they were victims of their own successes.  The bigger they got, the less profitable they got, which is not sustainable for any business.  Not to mention the countless lawsuits filed against both companies.

Next time there is a new service that is “too good to be true,” I will keep these 7 lessons in mind to minimize any big losses.  Are there any lessons you learned from MoviePass or Sinemia?  Please share them in the comments section.  Have a great weekend everyone!

10 thoughts on “7 Lessons I Learned from Sinemia Closing Down

  1. MM

    I miss MoviePass. Hit it hard for about 6 months, through Oscar movie season no less, then got a full refund from Costco when everything went south. Even so, would still pay a premium to have it back. Best thing ever when it functioned properly.

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  6. Markg

    Used MoviePass and for me was a rip-off because every time that I wanted to use there was a problem with the card or app. Now I use AMC A list…more expensive…like $21 plus tax…but you can see any movie any format…always save money with 2 movies a month or more

  7. Mike Saint

    Moviepass at it’s peak was great. Sinemia from Day 1 I really hated it. Their app was not good. It was constantly down. They did a bait and switch and never sent me a card when I signed up like they said they would. I paid $25 to get a card eventually and even then many times it was a pain using.

    I knew it was just a matter WHEN (not if) they would go out of business. I still had 5 more months left on my membership (expired in October 2019) but I couldn’t use it the last 3 weeks before it went under. My app never worked and they ignored all emails/Twitter DMs.

    They credit card wouldn’t refund me for the membership as it was several months in but I used AMEX to buy the $25 for the card and they did refund it.

    This CEO was totally clueless and unethical. If you read the excerpts of an interview he did a few weeks before it went under you can see he was totally lying. I hope he never gets a job again.

    Great post Grant. If something like this comes along again I’ll just go with the month to month pricing.

    1. Grant Post author

      MoviePass at its peak was great, no doubt. I had a really good experience with Sinemia up until the end. I’m sorry you experienced so many issues with Sinemia.


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