I have a MoviePass subscription.
I believe it’s a business model that cannot work. Without cooperating with the theaters, MoviePass has to put their own restrictions in place to control it and they make it an awful customer experience.
If they cooperated with the theaters, then there’s no reason for MoviePass to exist because if the theaters wanted to do this, they’d do it on their own.
MoviePass takes your money and gives you a debit card. They switch it on when you check in to pay for a movie, then they switch it off. Its big strength is that it’s transparent to the theaters; it works exactly like a Visa debit card. There’s a story floating around about how AMC is looking into legal action to prevent MoviePass from being used in their theaters, and I don’t see how that would be possible.
@malkav11 mentioned not knowing what theaters are participating, and while his concern is valid, it’s phrased wrong. No theaters are “participating”, the question is whether MoviePass has the data on the theaters you’re using. They might not support an indie theater or something they can’t get showtimes and pricing for, or if it’s some fancy place like an Alamo Drafthouse it might not be supported if it’s more expensive than a “normal” theater in the same way they don’t support 3D or IMAX showings in the places they do support otherwise (I don’t know if that’s true about Alamo, we don’t have one of those, just thinking of an example).
So yeah, the theaters can’t stop you from using certain debit cards, but that’s where we get into the crazy—but necessary—restrictions on how MoviePass works.
Pricing restrictions are just based on the theoretical business model where this might stand a chance in the abstract: you count on people to see it as a bargain, but then overestimate how often they’ll actually get to the theater and in the aggregate, pay more in subscription fees than MoviePass has to shell out for tickets. I believe this is why they don’t allow purchase of tickets for 3D, RPX, or IMAX shows—anything with a surcharge starts monkeying with their projections on subscriptions vs. tickets. You also can’t order tickets online through Fandango this way (again, surcharge).
Actual purchase restrictions are there because this can’t become the new Netflix/HBO password that friends pass around. They have to make sure every person buying tickets is paying subscriptions. So you have to buy your tickets at the theater (another strike against Fandango or other online services), can’t have you making it easier to get tickets remotely for someone else.
You can only see any particular movie once. An individual usually won’t care, but it stops me from seeing Logan on Friday, recommending it and giving you my card to see it on Saturday.
You can only see one movie per day. Again, discourages passing it around between several people, although on this one point I’ll call them out as being overly draconian: it’s not one per calendar day, it’s one per 24 hour period. So I can’t catch a 6:30 show Friday night and then see a different movie at 6:20 on Saturday. As sympathetic as I am to these restrictions overall, this one really bugs me. I’ve got it better than most, I work a half day on most Fridays. Often that means I can catch a movie right after lunch on Friday, and then still be free to see one at almost any time on Saturday. Still, there’s never a chance for a double feature, and catching three movies in a single weekend takes a spreadsheet to plan.
They implement this all through their app; it’s the only way they can attempt to enforce this stuff, but the app itself is pretty bad.
It’s used to confirm you’re actually at the theater to purchase tickets—never had any problems with that. It’s used to select your showtime (this is where they need to have some way of getting the data on their side to know what you’re seeing when) to make sure you’re only seeing movies once—I’ve never had a problem with that specifically.
But it used to still be a little bit of the honor system. Earlier this year you could “cheat” and see the same movie twice if you just told the app the second time that you were seeing a different movie the second day and then buy your ticket for the same movie again. As long as there’s some movie you know you’ll never see, you could “sacrifice” that check-in to see something twice (as long as it was 24 hours later, same price as the ticket you were actually buying, etc.).
That changed a couple months ago, now they require you to upload a photo of your ticket stub, and on my iPhone 6, for some reason it literally takes over 90 seconds to send the photo. I have to open up the app, snap my photo, and then just stand around with the app open for over a minute before I get a confirmation. My phone is showing its age in some apps, but this doesn’t seem like a problem any phone should have.
Oh guess what, sometimes your theater will change their prices too, and MoviePass doesn’t know that until a member reports the change. You find out when you swipe your card, it’s declined, and then you try to remember if the last ticket you bought was $12.17 or $12.57.
This has happened to me twice since February (does this mean I’m literally the only subscriber in my area?), and both times to their credit they’ve corrected it. You have to start a chat with support in the app, and it takes about 10 minutes to resolve, so I hope you weren’t cutting it close, but they do update the prices and both times I was still able to see the movie I wanted.
So yeah, this is an okay idea in theory but there is literally no way I can see to make this anything but an awful customer experience. What they have now is a nightmare, but anything less restrictive would be abused. I would never recommend this to anyone, but I went into it knowing most of this in advance.
Oh also, it apparently used to require a “contract”, you couldn’t cancel at will without paying a penalty, but that restriction was dropped before I joined. That would’ve been an automatic deal breaker. If they’re bringing that back and applying it to my account, that’ll be a dealbreaker again.
I’ve been a subscriber for 6 months. I’ve paid $239.94, and I’ve seen 27 movies, so I’ve paid about $8.88 per movie (matinee prices rose from just under to just over $10 in that time, evening shows when from $12 and change to almost $13).
So in theory, I’ve come out ahead, but in reality, four or five of those are movies I probably only saw because I had the subscription. It’s a lot closer to breaking even if I try to project that I probably would’ve seen 22 movies with a mix of matinee and full price during that time.
So at the end of the day, I’m a fanatic who probably sees more movies than 99.99999% of the population in the first place, and I was willing to play along with the restrictions, and I could still only barely make this worth my time.
I was literally thinking about cancelling my subscription earlier this week—I just went two weekends in a row without seeing any movies and I was getting tired of feeling obligated to make this thing work for me.
I take the drop to $9.99 a month to be a terrible sign, as someone else speculated they’re almost certainly just trying to drive up subscribers to cash out and leave someone else with this dud of a service. But sure, I’ll keep subscribing at $9.99 to ride this thing out for a little while longer.
Please, do not use this service.