Let’s face it, if you were told that you could see all the movies you wanted for one cost, you’d see a ton of movies at first, wouldn’t you? Most of us would. As time goes on there are fewer movies you haven’t seen, time gets tighter, and the math doesn’t start adding up anymore. But how long would it take? A month? Two? That’s exactly what MoviePass is banking on with its two week free trial and hidden early termination fee.
When we reviewed MoviePass before, our reviewer used it for the free trial period and loved it. Partially because of this review, I signed up for the trial and loved it, truthfully I still do. What I found, however, was that the service wasn’t cost-effective for me. Due to my schedule more often making me available for matinee showing than the more expensive evening ones, and the fact that there are a limited number of movies each month I’m interested in seeing, I found that I had to work to break even with the service’s $30/month price tag. That’s not the service’s fault, it’s mine.
What is the service’s fault is what came next. When contacting support to cancel my subscription, I’m greeted with the news that there’s an Early Termination Fee that I’d be expected to pay. This fee is graduated, depending on how long you’ve had the service:
0-3 Months: $75
4-6 Months: $60
7-9 Months: $40
10-11 Months: $20
1 Year+: Free
That means that someone who tried the service for a 2 week trial, watched a lot of movies for a couple of week, and then decided that the rate of movie-watching wasn’t sustainable is in for $105 on day 15 of having the service. Someone who has been with it for between 4 and 6 months is still in for double the monthly amount if they decide to cancel. Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with this, if the information was plainly visible on the trial page. It isn’t. It’s buried deep into Terms of Service that few consumers read thoroughly, and almost nobody reads before a free trial. Once a free trial is up and the actual service begins, almost none of those consumers are going to go back and then read the TOS. That’s, again, what MoviePass is banking on.
So, if you’ve ever wondering how MoviePass can afford to give people as many tickets to movies as they want for one cost, this is how. They offer a good service with a Hotel California-esque caveat: you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. At the very least, if you do leave, you’re paying them as much as 2 1/2 extra months worth of you using the service. This is not only a way to strong-hand customers into staying, knowing that nobody likes paying to lose something, but also pad their wallets with the dividends of consumers who trusted them.
So, if you’re the kind of person with an insatiable appetite for movies and the kind of time on your hands that makes it unlikely for movie-going to become a luxury, MoviePass may be for you. However, if you’re like the rest of us who enjoy movies but lack either the time or voracious appetite to see the vast majority of movies that enter theaters, avoid MoviePass. If your movie prices are anything like mine, going during matinee allows you to see 6 movies each month before you reach the monthly cost of this service, without the Early Termination Fee.
Fair warning folks. Know what you’re getting into, so they don’t end up taking advantage of you. I know I, for one, will be reading Terms of Service much more carefully from now on.
Postscript: After several hours speaking with a “Moviepass Concierge” over email, even informing the company about the possibility of this review, the most they were willing to do was reduce the Early Termination Fee from $75 to $40. If this is the best they’re willing to do when approached by a member of the press, it doesn’t give me high hopes for the chances the average consumer stand of getting this fee reduced or waived.