A $9.95 Multiplex Buffet Won't Hurt Netflix

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MoviePass rocked the entertainment industry on Tuesday, slashing the price of its movie theater plan to a mere $9.95 a month. Subscribers can see a regular 2D screening daily at most multiplex theaters across the country for less than what some exhibitors charge for a single movie. 

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Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) shares inched 1.5% lower on an otherwise flat market day, suggesting that investors fear that the MoviePass smorgasbord will woo some of the streaming service's users. After all, MoviePass is now pennies cheaper than Netflix. It's not a fair comparison, of course. Netflix is so much more than just a movie-screening platform, even if your homemade popcorn will never taste as good as your corner cinema's.

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Publicly traded multiplex operators took small hits on the MoviePass news, with AMC Entertainment (NYSE: AMC), Regal Cinemas (NYSE: RGC), Cinemark (NYSE: CNK), and Marcus (NYSE: MCS) all closing lower. IMAX (NYSE: IMAX) also saw its shares shaved by 2% on the news. 

There's an argument to be made that AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Marcus will all benefit from the movie. MoviePass pays exhibitors face value for the tickets, as it's the one that will be subsidizing the price cut. MoviePass should increase the volume of movies consumed, not necessarily a bad thing given the waning consumer demand. However, it undeniably devalues the experience. If you thought paying $12 for a Friday night screening was already too much, you're less likely to bother knowing that a celluloid buff is finding a way to catch 30 movies this month for the same price.

IMAX has it even worse. It's not included in MoviePass. None of the 3D or premium presentations are part of the $9.95 plan. It will miss out on the tickets purchased by MoviePass and its markups will seem even more out of whack.

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Then we get to Netflix. Someone bent on maximizing the value of a MoviePass subscription may have less time to binge Netflix at home, but the same can be said of most diversions. MoviePass isn't going to turn us into multiplex-charging drones.

Netflix is about more than catching a flick. It's about the convenience of a growing catalog of movies and, more importantly, shows where the next episode kicks in seconds after the prior installment's conclusion.

MoviePass may deliver near-term gains and long-term pain for AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Marcus. It may do to movies what cheap Redbox kiosk rentals did to DVD sales. IMAX will have even more to worry about if MoviePass finally takes off. However, Netflix will be just fine. The platform is differentiated enough and the value proposition is not coming under fire.    

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends IMAX and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.