MoviePass: Think it’s too good to be true? Think again

Even though MoviePass has been around for over 5 years, it wasn’t until last month that it received a great deal of publicity. MoviePass originally cost as much as $50 per month, depending on location, allowing users to see one film per day, 365 days a year. But in August, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe announced that they were slashing the cost of their unlimited movie plan to just $9.95 a month.

 

Yep, you read that right, $9.95 a month to potentially see one movie every day of the week. So, technically, if you see one movie a month – you come out even. If you see two movies a month, you’re making money. Sort of. But seeing how much I love going to the cinema, it seemed like a deal that was too good to be true.

 

When I lived in Korea, I would go to the cinema at least once a week, sometimes more depending on the amount of English language releases. The cost was low (compared to the U.K) and concessions were cheap. However, since moving to the U.S, I’ve noticed that ticket prices can be as much as 16 dollars. Not to mention the price of popcorn and sodas are pretty high. So, whereas in the past I would see most releases that seemed interesting, I’m now less inclined to go to a movie if there isn’t a name attached that peaks my interest, or if the film has a poor reviews. Which is a shame, because I feel like you should generally make up your own mind when it comes to the quality of a film, but when you consider you and a partner could easily spend $50 on a night out at the movies, these are things you have to consider.

 

Or you used to. MoviePass claims to let you see one movie per day, every day of the year, for only $9.95. The limitations are A. you can only see the same movie once. B. You can’t use it for IMAX releases. and C. You can’t use it for 3D movies. As far as I was concerned A. That’s not that big a deal. B. That’s a shame, but understandable. I’ll still pay to see a film that needs to be seen in IMAX if and when it arrives. And C. I’d rather see a 2D movie anyway.

 

However, there was a D. The “D” being, many many people complained about the service being too good to be true and that they had major problems signing up to the service. And then there were reports of people who did manage to sign up for the service, only for them to not receive their cards, which you need to complete the process. However, I was not deterred. And I’m glad I persevered because I only have good things to say about the service. This is my experience.

 

First, you have to sign up directly at moviepass.com. Name, address, etc. Then you download the MoviePass app – in my case, from the app store. There, I entered my debit card details and was told that I would receive my card in 5-7 days.  I had a problem downloading the app. It took several attempts over the course of the night to actually to download the thing, which I presume was down to heavy traffic. MoviePass said it’s goal was to attract 150,000 new subscribers by late 2018,  but they hit that target in two days, according to deadline.com.  The second problem was getting the card. 5-7 days was extremely optimistic. Mine came in about two and a half weeks. With the huge amount of subscribers, I can understand the delay. But until I received an official e-mail from MoviePass telling me my card would take longer than originally stated, I did start to worry that I’d been duped. But the card arrived and I got to work.

 

The first thing you do is open the app and tell MoviePass you have received your card. This allows you to see every location where you can use MoviePass. For me, the map looked like this:

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That’s a lot of choice in and around Tampa. Click on the Cinema closest to you and browse the selection of films. So, for example, I clicked on my local AMC and browsed the movies:

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Now let’s say I wanted to see Wind River (and you should too, it’s very very good!) click on your preferred time and you’ll see this:

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Note that you must be within 100 yards of the theater to activate your ticket. That’s because once you are within range, MoviePass will transfer the cost of a ticket to your MoviePass card, (which, in reality, is a MasterCard with MoviePass written on it…) and once you’ve checked in, you use your card like you would any other Debit or Credit Card to buy your ticket.

 

This might seem like a pain, with having to check in then swipe a card. But in today’s world, I think “checking in” whether it be on Facebook or Instagram is second nature to most social media users.  The main drawback I see of this method, is if your phone has no service or your battery runs out. It could be very embarrassing waiting in line holding your phone in the air trying to find a signal. Or if you like to plan your trips to the cinema in advance and have a specific seat you like to sit in, again, you could be out of luck. Unless you go to the cinema earlier in the day and purchase your ticket, you’ll be left with whatever seats remain. I would say this only applies to your Friday and Saturday night audience, but it still could be an inconvenience for some.

 

However, I haven’t had any of these problems, and here is why.  I chose AMC as my first example because they have been the loudest opponent of MoviePass.  They see the subscription service’s business model as unsustainable, and are convinced that MoviePass will not be able to keep the price as it is which will leave customers disappointed and disenfranchised with the cinema. Or, if you’re being cynical, they’re saying that they acknowledge ticket prices are currently too expensive but don’t want to lower them. Potayto – Potahto. Since the price drop, AMC have tried everything they can to stop MoviePasses being used in their theaters, including the removal of e-ticketing. With the world’s biggest theater chain no longer accepting e-tickets, that leaves roughly 6% of cinemas that do. Luckily for me, I’m near one of those 6%.

 

Now, AMC would have been my first choice cinema, but instead, I’ll now spend the extra few minutes going to a cinema that’s a little bit further away from my house, but allows me to buy an e-ticket AND choose my seat. When I first moved to Korea, I found pre-selected seats a pain. I liked to roll up and see what looked good at the time. Towards the end of my time in Korea, I found it a god send.

 

So when I search for films at the ‘Goodrich Quality Theater’, notice a slight difference in the menu:

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The little red ticket and chair means you can use an e-ticket and choose your seat. Choose your preferred time then you get a confirmation number:

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Once you’re at the cinema, enter the confirmation code into the ticket collection point:

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Press return, your tickets will print:

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Collect the hard copy of your ticket:

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Then enjoy your film:

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And that’s it. Once you sign up, see as many films as you want. I’ve already seen three (Wind River, Logan Lucky, The Dark Tower) and tonight I’m going to see IT. So even if MoviePass were to cancel the subscription next month, yes, I would be pretty annoyed, but I would have definitely ended my run in the black. But I would say the greatest value I have gotten in the short time I’ve had my Pass, was saving the 14 bucks on seeing The Dark Tower. I like Stephen King. I like Idris Elba. I like Matthew McConaughey. But the reviews were less than stellar and I couldn’t justify spending 14 dollars on a film that would most likely be terrible – especially when there are so many good films about to be released. But thanks to MoviePass, I caught the film when I had some free time and it wasn’t that bad. I mean, if I had of paid 14 dollars I would have been pissed. But with Wind River and Logan Lucky counting as my “official” purchases, it was a fine way to spend 90 minutes in a comfy cinema with great air-con.

 

I genuinely don’t see why AMC would be so upset with the plan. It’s not like they lose money as MoviePass pays the full price of the ticket. It’s MoviePass who will lose money if every subscriber is like me and will see most new releases. In the next few weeks I plan on seeing IT, Darren Aronofskys Mother and Kingsman. Hell, I might even catch Flatliners to see how bad it is compared to the original. MoviePass knows that there are people like me who will see a lot of films, but then they also count on the casual movie goer who will one film a month, or one every few months. But once you’re signed up, you’re more than likely to stay regardless of how many films you see. And it’s not like they’re hiding their end goal. The more subscribers they have, the more money they’ll be able to generate from advertising sales. It’s the same model Facebook works from. But they still have a ways to go. As of December 2016, MoviePass had just 20,000 subscribers but now it has over 150,000 and rising. I wouldn’t bet against MoviePass achieving their goal. Mitch Lowe is the man behind Red Box and was one of the co-founders of Netflix. The man can spot a trend and knows how to make a business work.

 

Which is why it’s so baffling that AMC doesn’t want the program to succeed. If anything, the movie theaters will be the big winners because it’s the concessions where they make their real money. So for every Flatliners and The Dark Tower which I most likely wouldn’t have seen in the cinema, not only will theaters probably get the full price of a ticket from MoviePass, but they also get the price of a popcorn and a soda which they DEFINITELY wouldn’t have gotten without the scheme.

 

Cinema audiences are declining, that’s a fact. But I don’t think that has anything to do with people’s cinema going habits – it’s to do with output and ticket prices. As the old saying goes “you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.” Well, no one is being fooled by shiny turds anymore. The shiniest turd of the all, Transformers, once deemed a guaranteed money maker, performed terribly this summer.  The same can be said for Pirates of the Caribbean. Whereas smaller, well reviewed films like Baby Driver, Get Out, The Big Sick and Annabelle: Creation killed at the box office. So, the moral of the story is “release better films, or stop charging so much for shiny turds and the box office might have a fighting chance.” Or…embrace the MoviePass and have more people come to your multiplexes. Seems like an easy decision to me.

 

If you’ve applied for your MoviePass and it still hasn’t arrived (and judging by their Facebook page, that applies to a lot of people…) I say do not panic. The plan isn’t a scam, they’re just overwhelmed. Give it time and you’ll be rewarded with as many films as you could possibly want to see. Well. One different film everyday of the week. As long as it’s not in 3D. Or in IMAX. Or The Dark Tower. Don’t see The Dark Tower, it was rubbish.

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