I live in Southern California, but I imagine this scenario has played out pretty much the same in every city. It is a fierce business to separate you from your dollars by getting you to come to the theater. They try many things to make it a good experience. Back in the days of my youth, drive-in theaters were great fun for families. Put the kids in their pajamas and pay a dollar a carload to watch two current first run movies. But we had a choice of about 7 drive-in theaters in the area. One of them put it a park near the refreshment building with swings and slides. One theater topped them all by purchasing a kiddie roller coaster from a carnival company and we could go early, while it was still sunny and ride that little roller coaster again and again and again for free. Guess which one we went for.

I remember the grand old theater palaces that were beautifully decorated inside and out. One had stars in the sky. One even had a fountain that played music and colored lights in front of the screen in between shows. There used to be raffles and prize nights. I’ve seen movie stars show up for personal appearances in the middle of the movie, making the rounds to make theater going a major event.

Then out came TV and it became easier to stay home and watch the shows on the “idiot box” than to dress up and make the trek out to the movie house. Many thought this would be the end of the theater business as we could watch our movies on small screens in black and white.

Gone were the days of $0.35 movie tickets and all the special events. The days of $12.50 movie tickets and $12.00 buckets of popcorn are here.

Flash forward to today. How do the theaters get you to show up now that we have Blu-Ray and home theater systems? Well there is some advantage to the community event of watching a movie in the crowd as a group experience. It’s not the same sitting at home alone. But that’s not enough. When you do decide to go out, you have many choices. Some years ago a theater chain called AMC came out with a “Movie Watcher” program. You got a little black card, and every time you bought a ticket you swiped your card and got 2 points. As the points grew, so did the rewards. When your ticket came out, there might be an extra reward of a free drink or free popcorn. Perhaps a $.50 box of Starburst, or once in a while a Free movie ticket. Then at a certain level you would “win” a free night at the movies with a free movie ticket and popcorn and drink, all for the price of $0.00. Suddenly I found myself going to AMC theaters almost all the time so I could swipe my card.

Well, the other theaters wouldn’t stand for AMC doing this, so they started their own rewards programs. Regal Crown Club came out next with one major twist on the AMC Movie Watchers. Royal gave you credit on the amount you spent, and included refreshment purchases. Regal was not only Regal Cinemas, but United Artists and Edwards Theaters too. You could now go to an IMAX film and get points toward free stuff. So now I alternated between AMC and Regal and split the points and got rewards from both theaters. But the local mall, just a few blocks from home opened a huge Krikorian Theater which was very convenient, not so crowded, and a great choice. But going there would delay rewards from another theater and that was a bad choice.

Soon Krikorian came out with “the premiere club” and I could earn points there too. Now I carried 3 rewards cards in my wallet and split my points between 3 chains. How would anyone up the stakes now?

I didn’t have long to wait. Suddenly a few months ago signs started appearing at the AMC’s about a new program called AMC Stubs. Why are they canning my Movie Watcher and changing the program? As time passed the details came out.

AMC Stubs, unlike the the other cards are cash based. The new plan costs you $12.00 a year, but for every $100.00 you spend, you get a $10.00 reward. This $10.00 can be used for anything you like, any time you like. Also, unlike the previous plan, there is no limit. Before we could only get credit for 2 tickets at a time. This means that if me, my wife, my daughter, and a friend went to the theater, we would only get credit for 2 tickets. My wife could have her own card, and we could scan both cards, but then her credits would grow independently. With AMC Stubs my whole family can use the same account. This means that any of us can use the same number and grow our rewards quicker. The points are based upon dollars spent for tickets and refreshments, and grow quickly. Additionally, with the old program we occasionally got $0.50 off on a popcorn or a drink. With AMC Stubs you get the next size upgrade every time you buy a popcorn or a drink or both. Everybody in you party can buy a large for the price of a medium, or a medium for the price of a small. This is a bonus every day, all the time. Sometimes special offers show up in the mail too. So guess now where I am going when I want to see a movie? Would I still want to get rewards from the other places when I can get 10% on every purchase every time at AMC? The first year, for Movie Watcher members was waived, so it’s free for the first year. Will I be willing to pay $12.00 to renew next year? We’ll see, but my feeling is that it’s a pretty good deal.

What do you think? Is it worth carrying membership cards for the theaters you visit to get occasional upgrades, or do you not go to the movies enough to bother?

Would you be willing to shell out $12.00 a year to get $10.00 back for every $100.00, plus the free upsizes? Is it worth it? What do you think? Let me know.

[Click here for AMC Stubs info]

[Click here for Regal Crown Reward info]

[Click here for Krikorian “the premier club” info]

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1 Comment so far »


    Antonio said

    May 7 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    Although I do not use any of these rewards cards, I’d have to agree that AMC Stubs looks like the best deal, and if I had to choose to drive a few extra miles to go to one, I probably would.

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