My 7 Month Flirtation With MoviePass

MoviePass is the movie theater subscription service that launched way back in 2011 but didn’t reach the public eye until the summer of 2017. Their popularity exploded after they announced a subscription plan that would let you see any movie, any theater, any time for only $9.95 a month. How did it work? You checked into a movie through the MoviePass app and then paid for the ticket with the MoviePass-branded MasterCard. You could only see one movie a day and it couldn’t be 3D, XD, or IMAX, but the monthly subscription still cost less than one standard movie ticket in most cities. If you saw one movie a month the MoviePass had already paid for itself.

MoviePass’s major limitation was that you couldn’t buy tickets online or reserve seats in advance. The MoviePass app check-in is what loaded money onto your MoviePass card to enable you to buy a ticket. The check-in would only activate within 100 feet of the movie theater and only for movie times on the same day. For popular weekend showing or opening nights, you had to make it to a movie theater in the morning and hope there were still tickets available for the evening showing.

It sounded simple enough, and for a while, it was—until April 28, 2018. This was the day after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, and unbeknownst to most subscribers, MoviePass had been hemorrhaging money for months. I mean, those who bothered to ruminate probably thought, “wow, MoviePass is too good to be true,” but they probably weren’t following the company’s financial health rating. I used MoviePass on early Thursday morning to snag a seat to the Avengers opening in a less frequented AMC Classic on the outskirts of town. The next day, a group of friends who were ambivalent about the movie decided they wanted to see it. So, Friday morning, I hopped on over to the same theater to grab another ticket.

But upon opening the MoviePass app, there was a gray layer over the Avengers image with the words, “You’ve already seen this movie.” Well, no joke, MoviePass. It seems this was the beginning of MoviePass’s fickle streak. Without a single announcement or notification, MoviePass decided to change the terms of service. Perhaps after Avenger’s strong (read: expensive) opening night, MoviePass no longer wanted to take the hit for repeat showings. It wasn’t even the limitation of one viewing that angered me, but the way that MoviePass did it—silently, with no attempt at an apology or explanation.

Well, I wasn’t about to give up MoviePass, because realistically, how many repeat showings had I attended? Two, maybe? The repeat showings ban was probably overdue anyway, because some people split or lent out MoviePasses. Have a roommate that you’d never hang with? At least they’re good for halfsies on a MoviePass. Or you could see a movie with your girlfriends now and your boyfriend later—just lend out your boyfriend’s pass to your friend. Not that the MoviePass model was ever financially solvent, but splitting and lending already insanely cheap passes certainly didn’t help matters.

But then I realized that this repeat showing ban affected the “unlisted showtime” feature on MoviePass. From day one, MoviePass has had a notoriously unreliable database of theaters and showtimes. There were three theaters in my district that showed up in the MoviePass app but none of their showtimes were listed—none. (Although here was a theater that had been closed for five years still going strong on the app.) I reported these issues to MoviePass countless time but they were never fixed. The only way to use MoviePass at these theaters was to use Unlisted Showtime. But now, you could use Unlisted Showtime exactly once, which meant that these three theaters (which also happened to be closest to me) were effectively out of network. Bam.

But still I held on. I could drive an extra 10 miles, right? If I saw one movie a week I was only paying $2.50 a ticket so the extra gas was worth it, right? Ah, but then, my fickle lover changed the terms yet again. Peak pricing. Which meant that any movie that was—as determined by a mysterious algorithm—”peak” would have an additional ticket surcharge. At first this only seemed to be the most popular movies, or prime weekend showtimes, but as time went on every single movie was peak priced. Even Hotel Transylvania 3 on a Tuesday after a spotty three week run.


My monthly all access subscription was now downgraded to a shell of its former self. And through these changes, not once was there an honest explanation or apology from this wayward lover. Even a simple, “well, it was too good to true, but it was a good run, wasn’t it?” would have sufficed. Your many mistresses need closure, MoviePass. We want to remember the good times and all the fun that we had. You could’ve kept the door open for the major rebrand and turnaround.

But you left us in shambles, and now all we’re thinking is: “You’ve already seen this movie.”


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