Once upon a time there was a day where one could see one 2D movie a day (even repeat screenings) for just $9.95 a month. Where I'm from, if you see just one evening showing, the card pays for itself.
Those were the days where I could see the new "Star Wars" film SEVEN times (yes, I actually did it,) as well as my favorite film of the year, "Phantom Thread," EIGHT times. It was a deal that was almost too good to be true.
It was explained briefly earlier, but if you're unfamiliar with MoviePass here are the basics: You sign up for MoviePass on the mobile app and within three weeks you receive your very own MoviePass debit card. You then pay $9.95 a month to see one free movie a day (I know right?). Once you are within 100 yards of the MoviePass certified theater, you then select your showtime, and then the right amount of money is loaded onto your debit card to purchase your ticket.
People had asked me "how do they make money on that," to which I could never really respond, but CEO of MoviePass Mitch Lowe had a response. Lowe details that "if you look at the distribution between the casual moviegoer who now (with MoviePass) is going about 10, 11 times a year. That's roughly what, they're spending $9.95 and they're going a little bit less than one a month. They're kind of breaking even on it" (Business Insider.)
In simpler terms, Lowe states that the average person with MoviePass most people who see movies only go enough to barely break even, and thus, MoviePass makes money off the subscription, and being able to market certain films to those people.
It makes enough sense. Even though people buy the subscription, they won't see enough movies for it to actually pay off for them, and all the while they'll be marketed to. This is all fine and good… until the terms of the subscription end up changing on the fly.
On April 27th, MoviePass then made it so you could no longer repeat showings… just in time for new "Avengers: Infinity War." Not only does this make it so that you can't enjoy your favorite films more than once, but it also seriously devalues the card.
MoviePass knows that there are really only about four good films in theaters that people will go see at any given time, so if they can effectively limit how many times people end up going to the theater, they make more money. It makes tons of sense.
I was extremely disappointed when I saw that repeat viewings would no longer be allowed. I love to rewatch films and find aspects of them that I haven't seen before. For some films, it's almost essential.
Along with the repeat viewing restriction, the company also forces you to take a picture of your ticket once you buy it, which isn't a huge deal, but I'm curious what happens if someone forgets, or hits a dead zone in service.
Still, I found that it was still a good enough deal to keep MoviePass around. I'd still get to see every movie once for free for just $9.95.
Then, it got EVEN WORSE.
Recently, MoviePass has introduced what is now known as "surge pricing." Now, if a movie is selling enough tickets, it can be seen as a "popular film" and you will be CHARGED A FEE for using the card that you already pay monthly for.
How ridiculous is that? Because a company doesn't want to increase their pricing model, you must now pay more to use the card you already pay monthly for.
I like to think of it this way: Imagine if you were on Netflix one night and wanted to curl up with Michael Scott and "The Office"... BUT WAIT! "The Office" is a pretty popular show, and thus pretty expensive to keep on Netflix. Because of that, Netflix is gonna charge you $3.50 to watch for two hours.
Yeah, now you get it.
Where I think the real solution to this whole problem lies in the fee. If MoviePass would simply increase their monthly price to accommodate, I would gladly pay an extra 10, even 20 dollars to see repeat showings come back and surge pricing go away.
MoviePass has turned into an outrageously good deal, to a downright liability to use, especially when seeing films that are considered blockbusters (and what the app considers to be worthy of surge pricing is still unexplained.) If MoviePass continues to change their terms of service at a moment's notice to people who loyally pay, subscribers are going to start disappearing, and they already have.
I'm an active member of the MoviePassClub subreddit, and I consistently see posts from other disgruntled users that have subsequently canceled their subscriptions.
I understand that this probably comes across as overly dramatic, but I write this article as more of a caution to potential MoviePass users. They will change their ToS constantly, they do not care if you've already paid for the service, and it is all about the MoviePass' cash flows.
But who knows? Maybe the company will change in the future, and as for this cinephile, I sincerely hope they do.