All you can eat buffet restaurants used to be all the rage. They can still be found in some areas, here and there, most notably inside casinos, but many these days have stringent social distancing rules in these murky pandemic waters.
Around the time I graduated from high school and for a number of years thereafter I worked for a buffet restaurant chain. When I started they had a half dozen or so restaurants, when I left to work for unrelated business in 1995, they had hundreds of locations. As the company grew, incremental cost measures were put into place. One of the more onerous changes required paid add-ons. So, now the all-you-can-eat model for one price suddenly had an asterisk. Regular customers on fixed incomes seemed to find these charges the most outrageous, and rightfully so. They also jacked around the menu, charging more money as time went on and reducing the amount of fresh food. I got out at a good time, because that restaurant chain is a shadow of its former success.
This is exactly the model streaming channels don’t want to follow. It’s confusing and irritating to customers. Either release a movie in the theater, on VOD or as part of the subscription process. Premium add-ons are a bad customer service idea. They might look good for shareholders that you are squeezing extra $$$ out of your customer base, but the bad will these additional fees incur are not worth it.
Sure, people will pay $29.99+tax for Mulan (see: Disney lost “nearly $5 billion” in third quarter, decides to release Mulan to Disney+ for additional $29.99 on September 4). We’ve decided that we won’t be among them. It’s not only the money, it’s the vote of confidence for the system and we just aren’t that crazy about seeing the movie.
According to this article, Mulan will be available for free on Disney+ December 4, 2020.
We would rather have paid and owned Mulan for that money and don’t want to support additional fees as part of a streaming service. Bill and Ted Face The Music can be owned for $24.99 and yet we need to pay for a Disney+ subscription and an additional $30 to see Mulan? It’s not your customer’s fault, Disney, that you have a $200+ million budget and want to recoup as much of this as possible. This is a wrong-headed business move. Make something people want to buy at a price that makes it easier to recoup the expenses and you won’t have to charge extra — ever.
“‘Mulan’ on Disney+ is a reflection of the abnormal state of the theatrical business right now,” Shaikh said. “I don’t think consumers have to suddenly start worrying about a number of titles on their streaming services requiring an additional fee.”Why Disney is releasing ‘Mulan’ on Disney+ for $30 – CNN
If Mulan does well with this premium model, then it will encourage other premium movie add-ons. It will distort the all-you-can-view for one monthly fee price.
This is also one of the reasons we didn’t go with AMC Stubs over Regal Unlimited monthly plan. AMC only offers 3 movies a week max, while Regal has no limit except for you can only see the same exact movie once per day maximum. If there are 16 movies showing, that means you could watch those same 16 movies every day (of course that wouldn’t be possible, time-wise).
Customers don’t like limits and add-ons and extra fees. Ask anybody with a cell phone, cable or satellite TV subscription about additional fees. They are irritating and annoying.
Regal Unlimited Friends and Family Program Only Works In App for additional convenience fee
Speaking of Regal Unlimited. They added this new feature called “friends and family.” In theory, it’s a cool feature.
The idea is that in the pandemic you can sit next to another Regal Unlimited friend or family member that also has a Regal Unlimited account. The feature is only available when you order through the Regal phone app which charges a “convenience fee” of $0.50+tax for each ticket. The theater itself cannot access this functionality, so they need to schedule the second person a social distance away and the customer just needs to move, not matching their purchased ticket location. Also, you don’t have to pay any fee if you buy the movie at the concession stand.
So, we are both at the theater and want to order tickets to sit together. If we do that through the Regal app it costs us an additional fee of $1 + sales tax OR while ordering concessions we pay $0 for the tickets, but can’t get printed tickets that have us sitting together. Yeah, I know, it’s only a buck, who cares, but when we’re already paying $44/month + tax (actually, right now we’re getting a free month and paying nothing until September), then why should we pay an extra dollar for every single movie when we — logically — want to sit together? And worse, why can’t the theater use the function we can use in the phone app?
The manager at Regal agreed with us that it was pretty silly to have a “new” function that is designed to solve the problem of friends and family sitting together in the pandemic but it only works on the phone app, not something the theater can access. Bizarre.
The biggest problem is the false advertising that implies you are enjoying something “unlimited” and yet there is this need to charge extra money that should have been included in the subscription price. Unlimited members should not have to pay convenience fees when using the app to buy tickets within a certain radius of the theater. I understand paying for advance tickets charging a fee, because what if the moviegoer doesn’t show up? You could have lost a sale. So presale additional fees, although I still dislike fees, at least feel a little more reasonable. However, if we’re already at your theater and just want to get the tickets vs. waiting in line and we already are paying you a monthly fee for unlimited access, why charge an additonal fee?
Subscription tiers are OK
For the record, I think subscription tiers are fine. So, if streaming companies want to offer an additional monthly tier which guarantees true all-you-can-watch access to everything. For example, if Disney+ has a premium tier which would include movies like Mulan for say $100/year and guarantee access to any/all new premium movies without an additional charge, that would be fine.
The problem is when we signed up for Disney+ unlimited streaming when it came out last year, they didn’t say anything about adding premier movies for an additional fee. Sure, they didn’t know that there would be a pandemic and they probably never realized they’d be using this model, but now that they are, I don’t see them adding an additional membership tier to include any/all premium titles released in the future. It slaps your existing “unlimited” customers in the face.
What do you think? Are you OK with paying for premium movies on top of a streaming service like Disney+ or do you hope this is just a (failed) one-off Disney experiment? Would you rather see additional unlimited tiers or just not do this at all, period? We welcome your opinion, as always, in the comments below.