Movie Pass card

MoviePass Makes Their Service Less Awesome

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Movie Pass card
The MoviePass credit card. Photo by Rob Huddleston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: As of August 2017, MoviePass has changed back to being awesome. Please see this update.

I see a lot of movies. So far this year, I’ve seen 58 movies in the theater. Last year, my high-water mark, I saw 136. In 2014, I saw 122; the year before, 120.

Seeing so many films obviously adds up, so I was thrilled several years ago when I first started hearing about a new service, MoviePass. It would essentially be a gym membership for movies–for $35 a month, I could see basically as many movies as I wanted. (The cost of the service varied a bit by region, so folks in New York or Los Angeles, where movies cost a lot more, paid a little more per month.)

Initially, there were a few limitations, but none really bothered me. You could only see one movie per day (the “day” was from 2am-2am, so you could see the new release of a movie at midnight on Thursday, and then still see something else Friday afternoon.) You also could not use the service for 3D, IMAX, or large format (RPX/XD/etc.) That was never a big deal to me: I don’t really like seeing movies in 3D, I only see 2-3 IMAX films a year, and I don’t care if I need to sit in a “normal” theater instead of the big screen/leather seat auditorium. You also couldn’t see a movie more than once.

Best of all, the service is very easy to use. You check in at the theater for the movie you want to see, then use a special credit card issued by MoviePass to pay for the ticket. To the kid at the box office, it was just a regular transaction. (This process also meant there was one more, unadvertised limitation: you can’t buy tickets online or in advance.)

I signed up as soon as the service came to Sacramento, and for the last several years I’ve used it over and over. I’ve also evangelized it, telling anyone who would listen about how great it was and how, as long as you saw more than 4 movies a month, it easily paid for itself. But I’ve also had a lot of discussions with my friend Olen, with whom I see most of the movies and who has also been a loyal MoviePass member since the beginning, about how the service couldn’t possibly last.

While we described it as I did above–a gym membership for movies–there was a critical difference. When you pay a monthly fee to a gym, it’s hard to quantify exactly how much you are or are not saving. With MoviePass, it’s incredibly easy: add up the cost of the tickets you bought in a month, and if it’s more than $35, then MoviePass makes sense; if not, it doesn’t. Thus, the service, which presumably bet on the same thing gyms do–having lots of people pay but not actually use the service to cover the cost of the people who see 100+ movies a year–couldn’t long sustain itself.

About a month ago, MoviePass members got an e-mail announcing that the service had hired a new CEO, Mitch Lowe, a former executive at both Netflix and Redbox. And right away, he made a big change to the service. According to an e-mail I and other subscribers got yesterday, the company is “experimenting” with new pricing models. So, beginning at the end of the current billing cycle (for me at least, July 23), we’ll have two options to continue our membership.

We can increase our monthly cost to $40 per month, but only be able to see six 2D movies per month. Or, we can bump up to a “premium” subscription, which will be $100 per month and allow us to stay under the old terms, seeing basically unlimited movies but now including 3D, IMAX, and large-format movies.

This isn’t the first time MoviePass has changed its terms. A couple of years ago, they changed the “one movie per day” to “one movie per 24 hours”, which eliminated the ability to see that midnight Thursday movie followed by a Friday afternoon show. More annoyingly, it also meant that you couldn’t see a movie at 8pm one night, and then another one at 7pm the next night. But all that really did was mean that I had to plan out my movie-going a bit more.

The new system, quite simply, guts the service. The regular service is basically just a pre-pay thing: instead of buying six tickets at $11.50 each, I can pay the monthly fee and end up paying about $6.67 for those tickets. But after that, I’m back to paying for the other 4-5 movies I see that month. (I can also go up to Costco and buy advance tickets for about $8.50 each, but get as many of those as I want.)

It’s also been pointed out online that basically, the service is asking subscribers to pay more for less each month.

The “premium” package is just silly. At $99/month, I’d need to see 9 movies every month just to pay for the service. Since my average is currently 8.3 movies per month, that obviously makes no sense at all. (Last year, I ended up averaging 11.3 movies per month, so it would have paid for itself by a little bit.) You’d need to average 6.8 3D movies per month to pay for that. But since there aren’t 7 movies playing in 3D at any given time–and the service will continue its policy of limiting you to only seeing each movie once–that’s impractical as well.

At this point, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Most likely, I’ll stick with the service for awhile, on the regular service, of course. The response online, both on the MoviePass site and on social media, has been overwhelmingly negative, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the company will listen to its customers and reverse this crazy policy.

I’d be happy to pay a bit more for the service I used to have–bump me up to $45/month for unlimited 2D films and I’m in. However, the company doesn’t have a good history of listening. When they went to the 24-hour policy, lots and lots of people complained, and were ignored. I get that they need to find a way to be profitable. I just hope that they will realize that destroying the core of their business isn’t the best way to do that.

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14 thoughts on “MoviePass Makes Their Service Less Awesome

  1. Thank you for the information. I have grown very skeptical of anything that starts out as “unlimited”, whether it was cloud storage, mobile data plans, even Netflix’s “unlimited streaming” business model which has gotten more and more expensive over time, and there have been accusations of Internet companies getting paid to open up bandwidth, a payment that no doubt passes along to the customers.

    It’s just so difficult to sustain over time.

  2. Please for the love of God – just quit like myself and so many other formerly happy MoviePass members are doing. It’s the only way to truly send a message. I would/will rather pay an extra two bucks for each Costco ticket than support Mitch Lowe’s decision in any way. We disgruntled MoviePass members should stand united in our refusal to accept this nonsense.

    1. Anyone interested in teaching these people that bait and switch and punishing members who use the unlimited plan as it’s sold has already been ruled as illegal in the courts on two separate Supreme Court rulings, then join me in a class action suit against MoviePass.

      Email your full name and contact email address to moviepassclassaction@gmail.com.

  3. I too have been with the company since the beta stage (early 2012) and received the email of doom on Tuesday. Rather than celebrate my long-time business and support–even when things were rocky–this company has decided to punish me for, um, using their service exactly as advertised. I refuse to choose between the two plans, primarily because neither plan offers any value. However, I also object to the new Terms of Service, which give the company the “right to offer members a new price option if they exceed watching a certain amount of movies per month.” Notice how this “unlimited” service actually does have a limit, but they won’t define that in concrete terms. This allows them to deny service to any user that actually accesses the advertised benefits of the product. Classic bait-and-switch.

    My plan right now is take the third option, which is to refuse to choose and let MoviePass put my account on hold. For now I’m not canceling, in hopes that somehow they come to their senses soon.

  4. I know I am practically alone in saying this, but I actually welcomed the change with arms wide open. I love IMAX, and if there is a 3D version I will usually watch it. I always said that if a more expensive option came along that included these formats, I would gladly pay it. Granted, it IS a bit higher than even I thought they’d go, but doing my calculations, I would still save an average of $25-$55 a month (yep, this is what happens when you write about movies for a living), so I was okay with it. If MoviePass could get movie theaters to help with some of the kickback of the movie tickets, then there’s a chance the company would not need to do something so drastic.

    Sadly, movie theaters (with the exception of AMC) have largely fought this service, feeling like it cheapens the movie going experience (I would argue cell phones are doing that but what do I know). At the moment we’ll have to see whether this is a success or not. If too many people cancel they may just tweak the price again. Or, they’ll do what Netflix did: Jack up the price, weather the storm of complaint and cancellations for the next few months, and then rebound as if nothing had happened. Guess we’ll just have to see where this all goes.

    For the time being though, I’m okay with my new premium service, and I look forward to using it!

  5. People: Don’t cancel your accounts. This is exactly what MoviePass wants — to get rid of people who watch more movies then they like. Instead, contact a lawyer. This is fraudulent advertising. Promoting one price on the website and pushing existing customers out by tripling the price for them. Looks like a class-action lawsuit in the waiting …

    1. Re: Moviebuff – after thinking about it, I’m planning to let them freeze my account rather than cancel outright. But, contact a lawyer, seriously? I can’t afford the higher fee for MoviePass, to say nothing of the cost of retaining an attorney over this. I’m severely bummed about it (like, seriously feel gutted over it to be honest) but I don’t think many people can consider trying to go after them. And for what anyway? MoviePass has always said their prices vary by location.

  6. MoviePass, under new CEO Mitch Lowe, is now just a crooked bait and switch operation. They sign you up promising that you can watch a movie a day for $35 a month. Then, if you actually try and use the pass, watching perhaps 3 movies a week, they come back to you and ask you for $99 a month. Their advertising, PR, and web-site content are just shameless lies. This article clearly just recites MoviePass PR but we all know it is a fraud waiting for a class action lawsuit. Mitch Lowe is fooling nobody.

  7. Apologies to the article’s author. I reposted my comment that I left on another site. This article explains the situation fairly. As a crooked bait and switch.

  8. It’s quite clear that the current MoviePass business model was unsustainable. There clearly weren’t enough “Light users” to make up for the “Heavy Users.” I too got the “email of doom.” I ran the numbers and I’d actually come out slightly ahead with the $99 plan, especially if you include the free tickets/money from the two loyalty programs. (Regal and AMC in my case) I’m just going to freeze my account to see if MoviePass comes out with a better deal by the end of the year. I’d hate to sign up for the $99 plan now and be stuck with it for a year when they’ve come out with a better one in the meantime. I’m quite sure that this debacle will be used in business schools in the future as an example of how NOT not treat your customers. I believe the average consumer would totally understand that MoviePass needed to adjust prices to make the business viable. However, creating a situation that essentially penalizes your most loyal users who were the most vocal on social media is business suicide. They should have done an online survey of all users–and got some data. Using us all as lab rats in a “See what the traffic will bear” experiment is cynical, stupid, and disrespectful to all of us who have been the services most vocal supporters. Mitch Lowe—shame on you.

  9. These new plans suck! I got the horrible email notice but my Moviepass friend did not (both customers for 4 years). So frustrating. I tried to sign up as “new” customer for current plans but the kept cancelling account. I used different email and shipping addresses. Don’t get it. Why are the original subscribers being punished? Has anyone found a way around a the price increase?

  10. I cancelled mine when I got the email. Interestingly though my wife who goes to less movies on average per month never got an email from them asking to upgrade to a new plan. Her plan renewed a few days ago. Since we live in the same house this means they are not only targeting particular zip codes with higher cost movies they are also targeting high use members. For reference I was seeing about 10 movies per month at $30 and would happily have paid 50 for unlimited but the jump to 99 is too much to palate.

    I am very unhappy and think every who gets the higher rate plans should cancel immediately. Its not a little less awesome its actually terrible.

  11. I considered MoviePass years ago, but decided it wasn’t cost-effective for me. Now I am seeing it promoted as a $9.95 all-you-can-watch service, which seems to be a no-brainer. This pricing did beg the question, how is this service sustainable? What do long-time users of MoviePass think about the service now? Any downsides, or “gotchas?” It is currently being promoted as a month-to-month subscription, and you can cancel at any time. Even if a subscriber sees only 1-2 movies per month, MoviePass loses, unless it is getting huge discounts from the theaters and/or studios. Seems like an impossible promise to sustain.

  12. First of all you can’t see what movie theaters take movie pass until you sign up. I found out I’m only good for 1 theater that’s no near me, when I have a Regal right down the street. The app is horrible…I tried to cancel my subscription the same day I joined and does not go through. I keep getting the spinning circle thing on my phone. Sent them a message, but I’m sure I’ll hear nothing. I guess I just lost $9.95!

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