Why you should have a subscription programme and how to run one successfully

Since the initial creation of cinema subscriptions in France, the concept has grown, developed, and over the past few years exploded across the cinema industry. Though it took some time to travel from the home of cinema to North America, it’s clear subscription offerings are here to stay.

The story of subscriptions is a long and varied one, and while exhibitors like UGC, Cineworld, Odeon, and Pathé have been running their own schemes for years, more recently third parties have had several high profile attempts at running more generic schemes.

It’s clear from their overall success that subscriptions are worth running. But why exactly? How can you make sure yours work to their full potential? What lessons have we learned from the failure of early adoption attempts like Moviepass?

The success we’re seeing

Subscriptions bring part of a smooth and consistent customer experience. Creating that experience is essential to making moviegoers feel engaged and committed to your cinema, and those two points—engagement and commitment—are the key goal. Customer loyalty is, and always has been, at the forefront of the cinema business.

Outside of cinemas, online subscription services have also taken off over the past years, with a significant increase in streaming services during the pandemic, not only in their adoption, but in the number of options out there. A few months ago people were asking whether consumers would leave the comfort of their couches to return to the cinema, but the answer is a resounding yes!

Reopenings are continuing with promising outlooks as the box office sees tentpoles like Godzilla vs Kong, F9, and Black Widow each outperforming the last. Cinema is back, and it’s the perfect time to introduce a subscriptions programme. We want to be engaging those moviegoers who are coming back, making your cinema their cinema of choice, and offering that extra little bit of encouragement to those who haven’t returned yet to tip them over to a cinema visit.

With blockbuster lineups returning, there’s more and more reason for moviegoers to return in the latter half of 2021 and beyond. But to make it work, there’s several things to keep in mind.

Subscriptions need to be built smart

The subscription offering alone isn’t the secret weapon. When it’s integrated with marketing, operational, and support processes—and preferably your loyalty and CRM systems—you create a seamless, enhanced experience for your customers. The customer needs to feel special, engaged, and committed to your cinema. Executed successfully, you’ll be guaranteed increased revenue.

Visitation, of course, is very important. Every time a subscriber watches a movie, distributors need to be paid, so the calculations around subscription pricing, visitation, and ticket values will help you make a good deal for your customers that also improves your returns. Plenty of examples show that a good subscription increases visitation significantly; AMC reported, for example, that in the first month or two subscribers visited an average of 3.5 times a month, before dropping to around 2.8 times a month. By comparison non-subscriber visitation was less than twice a month. The real value associated with visitation is the incremental spend, not just the ticket. Premium experiences and Food and Beverage are much higher margin returns for that extra 1 visit per month.

Unlike streaming services, a cinema can’t afford to have customers signing up for a subscription, seeing 15 movies with it right away, and unsubscribing before the second month so some commitment is required. So how do you get customers to buy into that visitation and commitment?

Adding to the cinematic experience

A robust subscription programme should add to the cinematic experience at your cinema. Integrating and seamlessly connecting it to the rest of your customer facing suite helps immensely.

Exclusivity is a big pull; one of the easiest ways to create a bond with your customers is through member-exclusive offers. Regular communications, events, and offers will build the exact type of bond that you want in order to lock in your subscribers. The exclusivity of the theatrical window and full cinematic experience are already some of the biggest influences to bring moviegoers in, so making your cinema their ideal choice, and your subscription having their ideal offers on top of that, can turn a sometimes-moviegoer into a loyal customer of your cinema.

However you execute your programme and your offers, using tickets and deals needs to be easy across all sales channels. Remote channels in particular may require some special thought. Seamless experience again, is crucial for this, and Vista Subscriptions integrates with the entire vista suite to help you create that perfect, easy flow across the whole experience.

Finally, to bring out the best benefits, you need the flexibility to tailor unique subscription offers that fully align both with your existing business and with your audiences’ desires. Setting up your unique offers through the highly flexible Loyalty Manager is easy and there are extensive options.

Cinema is back; make sure moviegoers know it

There are countless options of where you can go from here, but the most important piece of advice is to keep listening. By watching your moviegoers’ transaction data and following their customer journeys over time, you’ll find the best ways to continuously improve your experiences and enhance engagement, conversion rates, and upsell opportunities.

Subscriptions are what you make of them. In today’s world among reopenings, giving customers confidence and incentives to return to cinemas is the most important element to get right. With an increasingly full slate of big films coming, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how best to build your subscription offers, and help your moviegoers commit to your cinema as their top movie-viewing choice.


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