It’s a tough time to be a MoviePass subscriber. The once amazing service, which I used to use to see 8-10 movies a month for a flat $35.00, has spent the last year prioritizing disruption over sound business, and the results are predictable. As I wrote about last week, the service crashed entirely several weeks ago when the company simply ran out of money. Ever since, they have given conflicting accounts of what is going on and change their service seemingly daily.
The latest hail-mary plan to stay afloat was to switch every monthly subscriber to a 3-movie-a-month plan at $10. That’s still a bargain, so I had planned to stick around. But then, it turned out that wasn’t nearly enough. The problem, it seems, is that their offers for annual plans last winter were too successful: too many of their users paid upfront last year, meaning that the company is getting no income at all from most of its users, while still having to pay for those users to see movies. And, the company is basically stuck, having to continue to offer unlimited monthly users to those annual subscribers.
And so, the latest indignity to those of us still hoping to make this work: quietly, and of course without directly informing users (despite promises to be more transparent), MoviePass has decided to allow you to see any movie you want … so long as that movie is the one or two they are supporting that day. Over the weekend, the only movie available for most subscribers was the critically-panned Slenderman, which is currently sitting at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. Today, it happens to be the much better reviewed Mission:Impossible-Fallout, which is cool … unless, of course, you’ve already see M:I. In that case, you’re simply out of luck.
The two exceptions to these limitations are if you happen to live in New York or San Francisco, where you can see the service to see The Miseducation of Cameron Post at one of the 25 theaters it is currently playing, or to go to one of the e-ticketing theaters that MoviePass has agreements with, which still allow you to go to any movie. Unfortunately for me, the only e-ticketing theater in my city is the Studio Movie Grill, which offers far and away the worst movie-going experience around.
Is MoviePass still worth it?
That’s becoming a harder argument to make. I don’t mind paying $10/month for three movies, but obviously, I need three movies to be available to see. If there aren’t, then it doesn’t take a degree is economics to figure out it’s time to cancel.
But, wait. There are now reports that cancelling isn’t so easy, either. In a seemingly above-board move, MoviePass required all of its monthly subscribers to opt-in to the new $10/month plan. They also said that opting in would override a cancellation. This was, at first, also a positive, since a lot of people cancelled when the service seemingly died a few weeks ago (I didn’t understand the logic of affirmatively cancelling a service you thought was going away anyway, but I digress.) For the last year, part of the Terms of Service has been that if you cancel MoviePass, you cannot re-subscribe for 9 months, so the ability to cancel your cancellation seemed like a good thing.
Now, however, it looks like the company wasn’t being so above-board after all. Many users who cancelled but still wanted to use the service for the remaining time on their subscription opted in without realizing that their cancellation would be overrridden, because the app made no mention of this in the opt-in dialog, and the email was sent later. But many other users–it’s impossible at this point to know how many–are saying that they did not opt-in, and yet still received the email welcoming them back to the service. And, when users go into the app to cancel, they are shown an error message.
Reddit’s most active subreddit on the service, /r/MoviePassClub, has a megathread on this problem with reports of people being unable to cancel or being opted-in by default. It seems that subscribers who wish to really cancel can contact MoviePass directly and successfully cancel, but it may be a bit before we’re really clear that those cancellations are going to stick. In the meantime, if you want to cancel MoviePass, you should probably go in and change your billing card to a gift card or a virtual card with a zero balance. (Several Reddit users have recommended privacy.com as a possible solution.) You may also have to protest the charge with your bank.
Can MoviePass Survive? Should it?
Can MoviePass survive this? At this point, who knows. They say that they still need to grow–apparently, their target is an increasingly unlikely 5M subscribers–but they cannot hope to do that with dishonest business practices and a constantly changing model.
The more important question at this point is, should it survive? I’ve been a backer of the service for years, and still believe that the idea behind disrupting the theater business and providing a subscription plan that works at more than one specific theater chain is something people want. But as long as MoviePass sticks with its dishonest, increasingly amoral CEO Mitch Lowe, and as long as they continue to abuse their loyal subscribers with these changes, it’s hard to continue to support them.
I for one opted in to the new plan, because I was hopeful that by switching I’d get a return to the easy, stable experience I’ve enjoyed for years. Whether or not I’ll still be a subscriber next month remains to be seen.