With the help of a controversial movie ticket service, Dallas-based Studio Movie Grill is filling a lot more seats.
Unlike the AMC theater chain, which launched a scathing attack on the MoviePass service in a news release last month, Studio Movie Grill is an investor in the service that, as of August, allows consumers to see a movie a day for less than $10 a month.
It was the first major theater chain to buy an ownership stake in the service. But Mitch Lowe, MoviePass chief executive, said that at least 14 independent chains have contacted him since the brand's website began blowing up with consumers eager to cash in on the $9.95-a-month deal.
The service allows consumers to see up to 365 movies a year for a monthly fee that rivals one day's ticket price in some markets. MoviePass pays the theater owner the regular ticket price, which can be $11 in some markets for one movie.
That price does not apply to 3-D movies.
The service began in 2011 but didn't show up on most consumers' radar until last month when the $9.95 price was announced. The previous price was up to $50 a month, depending on the market.
AMC calls it a "shaky and unsustainable program" and said in the long term that it threatens to harm both theaters and movie studios. But consumers are signing up in droves.
"Our customer frequency is going up in Dallas, at Studio Movie Grill, 400 percent," said Lowe, referring to the increase in customer visits.
"Our [subscription] sales in Dallas have gone up many times over just the last week."
Lowe said Studio Movie Grill founder and owner Brian Schultz shares his goal to figure out "what can be done to get people excited about going back to the movies. The industry really needs a lot of options."
Schultz could not be reached for comment. But a spokeswoman pointed to Studio Movie Grill's own recent news release.
"Programs like MoviePass encourage more frequent movie-going, which is a win-win for everyone," Studio Movie Grill said in the release. "By embracing these programs, we are not only offering a valuable opportunity for our guests to attend more movies, but also supporting our studio partners and team by building on attendance."
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