It was roughly a year ago when I first heard rumblings of this phenomenon called MoviePass. I didn’t really look into it too deeply, but the gist of it was this: You pay a flat fee each month, and then you can go to the theater to see as many movies as you want. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, that’s why I didn’t try to get on board with it right away. I downloaded the app when I first heard about it, but I didn’t pay for a subscription. My concern was whether or not my local theaters would accept the thing. Turns out, they do. But I couldn’t find that out for certain until I paid my money and became a subscriber.
So I deleted the app. And I pushed the idea of this MoviePass to the back of my mind.
Until around the end of 2017. That’s when someone I actually know informed me that MoviePass works and it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.
I downloaded the app. Again. But this time, I subscribed. $9.95 a month and you can see as many movies as you want? Heck yes I will.
Okay, there were stipulations…
- One movie per day – That’s really not an issue. I mean, who has time to watch more than a couple movies in a week in the best of times? More than one a day? That’s crazy talk.
- Nothing 3D or IMAX – That’s fine, too. I mean, I don’t have a particular issue with the idea of an IMAX movie. But I’ve never really been one to pay extra just to sit in a bigger, louder theater. And 3D just gives me a headache.
You know, when I started out, I think those were the only real stipulations. In theory, I could go to the theater to see a movie 30 times in a month. For $10… No brainer, right?
But how does this work? I mean, who’s making money on this? How do the powers that be at MoviePass fund this little dream card? You pick your movie on the app. You check in. You use the MasterCard that MoviePass provides to pay for your ticket. And you’re in. Someone’s paying my admission fee, but it sure doesn’t feel like it’s me.
At first, it seemed like MoviePass would be making money by data mining. They would sell statistical data based on who’s seeing what movies and when. After a while, it came out that, if you kept the MoviePass app open on your phone, the GPS would track you as you went to and from the theater. This helped them to figure out who was going out to eat before or after their movies. Maybe that would lead to a similar subscription service to popular restaurants.
I’d be on board with that. Pay $10 a month and you can stroll into Red Robin and get a free appetizer or drink along with the entree that, of course, you had to actually pay for.
But people didn’t like hearing they were being tracked. And I think, I’m not 100% sure, that MoviePass ended that tracking policy.
Eventually, it became clear that they weren’t making back their money as quickly as they were being forced to spend it. Once I was on board with the $9.95 per month subscription, they started making changes. Not to my subscription. At least, not at first. No, they changed the way people could subscribe. They experimented with other types of subscriptions. One that I remember hearing about was where you pay around $30 per month and you can see three movies per week, instead of one per day. That doesn’t sound like the better deal. People complained about that, too. So they went back to the $9.95 subscription deal.
And then they started making changes to existing subscriptions. When I first started using MoviePass, the one movie per day deal was fantastic, because it also allowed for me to enjoy repeated viewings of movies I’d already seen. Yes, hearing them advertise that I could potentially see 30 movies in a month sounded great in theory. But there’s no way I’m seeing 30 movies in a month without repeats in my neck of the woods. Because there are never 30 different movies being shown at the same time.
Around the time that Avengers: Infinity War was released, MoviePass did away with repeat viewings. I saw Avengers one time. And that was it. I saw The Greatest Showman twice with MoviePass. I saw Ready Player One three times.
A couple months back, they decided to start having subscribers take a photo of their ticket stubs and submit them electronically. Honestly, I still have no clue what this does for the company. I guess they need proof from everyone that you actually bought the ticket that you said you checked in for. If one fails to submit their ticket stub, they are unable to check in to another movie until it’s dealt with. If one fails to submit their ticket stub a second time, their subscription is cancelled immediately with no possibility of resubscribing in the future. Seems harsh, but okay.
The “no repeats” policy was a little annoying, but I can live with it. And electronically submitting a picture of my ticket stub isn’t always convenient if the WiFi signal isn’t the best. But these things don’t really keep me from using MoviePass to its fullest potential. Up until now, I’ve still been able to enjoy seeing pretty much every movie I’ve had the time and desire to see, all for the low price of $9.95 per month.
Then they began the surge pricing. This is where it gets ridiculous. When I first heard about this, I understood it to mean that MoviePass would see that certain films on certain days and at certain times would be more popular. Thus, if you wanted to use MoviePass to see these popular movies with lots of people, you would probably be willing to pay an extra two or three bucks to do so, right?
Well, I’ve looked at the surge pricing for some movies. And they’ve been more in the range of five to eight dollars. If I’m paying $8.00 to see a movie, what’s the point of even having a subscription to movie pass? And some of the surge pricing I’ve seen has been for movies that haven’t proven to be that popular at the box office. Yes, I can avoid surge pricing, but that means planning trips to the theater at less than convenient times. And it may mean avoiding blockbusters that I may want to see.
I really wanted to see Mission: Impossible – Fallout since it came out this weekend. I may have even been willing to pay the peak price to see it Thursday night or Friday afternoon. But it wasn’t an option. Thursday night, MoviePass crashed. The app was messed up and people weren’t able to check into any movies. They fixed it by Friday, but Mission: Impossible was unavailable as an option.
It’s as if it’s been blacked out. Still, as of today, Sunday afternoon, Mission: Impossible is not an option on the MoviePass app. It shows up in the list of movies being shown at one of the local theaters, it just can’t be chosen when one goes to check in. At least, that’s how it is on my app.
I’ve also got the peak pricing icon on every viewing for every movie that is available to me. Teen Titans Go to the Movies? That’ll cost me $6.00. Equalizer 2? Also $6.00. Hotel Transylvania 3? Yep… $6.00. Again, I ask, if I’m paying the cost of what would be the cheap Tuesday tickets, what’s the point of having MoviePass at all? I can just wait until Tuesday and pay $6.00 outright.
Y’all, I don’t think this is an across the board $6.00 peak price for everyone who wants to see a movie today. Because I was just texting back and forth with my friend, Jeff, and he doesn’t have that peak price icon on any of the showtimes he’s looking at. So does MoviePass just decide that I’ve seen too many movies this month and so, from now on, I have to pay extra if I want to see something else? Am I being punished for utilizing their service?
There are a lot more in depth articles out there in the entertainment industry that I’m sure detail everything that’s going on with MoviePass. But, from where I sit, it’s a shady company with a terrible business model. I’ve said that I’d keep on using it up until it’s not worth having anymore. And maybe now is the time for me to get rid of it. Maybe I should cancel at some point prior to the automatic withdrawal of my $9.95 in mid-August, assuming MoviePass is still in business by then.
You know, someday, we’ll all look back and think, “Man, we had it good for about seven or eight months there.” And MoviePass will be this legendary historical thing that just flashed in the pan and vanished into obscurity. Like the Thighmaster. Or Sega’s Dreamcast.