As one of the three million people who subscribe to MoviePass, I’ve watched the company’s recent developments with a great deal of interest – and disappointment. When I joined, they offered an arrangement that was almost too good to be true: one newly released movie a day for $9.99 a month. And now? I still pay nearly ten bucks a month, but I receive less in return.
Here’s the way the ticketing service works: you download the app, locate a theater that accepts the service, select the film of your choice, MoviePass puts the funds for the ticket on a special debit card, and you enjoy the show. The outfit subsidizes the cost of the pass.
I signed up in February after a friend urged me to join. He was so proud of his membership that he pulled his red MoviePass card out of his wallet and showed it off as if it was a Golden Ticket from “Willy Wonka.” (“You gotta do it! You only have to see one movie a month to get your money’s worth!”) I live in LA, so I can see why this would be particularly appealing to Angelinos – the website PromoCodesForYou reports California has the nation’s highest average ticket price at more than $15.
Now that I had MoviePass, I found I was going to more films. I went to one in February, two in March, and three in April. I came to reappreciate movie-going, something I hadn’t been doing as of late. There truly is something magical about watching light flicker on a wall in a dark room with a group of strangers. In recent years, I’ve traded that for the convenience of streaming serial TV at home on my iPad.
My initial MoviePass experience ended in the spring when the organization made a series of changes to my plan out. First, members could only see the same movie once. Then, subscribers were limited to three movies per month. Then, the selection was curtailed – new releases wouldn’t be available for two weeks after release. Changes one and two didn’t affect me much as I rarely see the same movie twice in a theater, and I normally don’t partake in more than three movies in a 30-day period. However, the third revision did have some impact because I usually see new fare when I go to the cinema.
I forgot about that last item until I went to see “BlackkKlansman” the week after its release in mid-August. I arrived at my usual theater, and I was surprised the film wasn’t listed on the app. In fact, only three of the eight films playing that night were offered. I thought I might have missed something, so I went up to ticket counter and asked the attendant why “Klansman” wasn’t available. “Yeah, that’s their new thing,” she said. “You can only see certain movies now.” That was when the current rules occurred to me. I still wanted to see the flick, however, so I paid out of pocket. It was only the first time since I registered that I wasn’t able to see the feature of my choice, but I was aggravated nonetheless.
Several reports have it that MoviePass has been hemorrhaging money, and this comes as little surprise to critics of the service. They said it was an unsustainable business model that was similar to a gym membership in that fitness clubs accept far more members than they can reasonably accommodate because they know most clients won’t work out regularly. Exercise requires both time and effort and many aren’t willing or able to put forth one or both. But watching a film? It isn't the same commitment. The company was, therefore, left to pay out far more in tickets than they could afford. I heard one pundit ask incredulously, “Did they really think people were too lazy to go to the movies?”
I’ve now begun to reevaluate MoviePass, and I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to continue with the service. I know it was unrealistic to expect to partake in one new movie per day indefinitely. However, as we’ve seen with a number of discontinued products and services – Google Glass, McDonald’s McDLT, Trump: the Game – once you offer people something they use and enjoy, they’re reluctant to give it up. I suspected the plan for which I initially signed up would eventually come to an end, but I didn’t anticipate it would be such a letdown when it did.
I'm Eli Natinsky and I'm a communication specialist. This blog explores my work and professional interests. I also delve into other topics, including media, marketing, pop culture, and technology.