How it works and possibly why the learning curve is so high.
What to expect and what not to expect.
And then ultimately; despite its innumerable failings, shortcomings, and the company's totally opaque operations, is it even worth having?
So as of a few days ago, MoviePass was a digital service that for 10 USD per month theoretically allowed a user to see one movie per day of almost any film (no IMAX, Dolby, 3D, or other "premium" screenings.), one time only, in any participating theater. FOR FREE. On paper that basically sounds like going to the movies as much as 30 times for only 10 dollars a month. It was a sweet deal but one with many many catches. And as of late, many more.
It's now a 15 USD per month service with even more restrictions—no blockbusters during their opening weeks (e.g. Mission Impossible: Fallout), "Peak Pricing" add-on fees for popular movies at popular times. As well as a host of other features that no one really understands yet like "bring a friend" and more add-on fees for premium screenings. No one really knows what MoviePass 3.0 will look like until it's fully rolled out.
How it works:
2. You get an actual plastic debit card that's on the Mastercard system in the mail 1-3 weeks later. Note, you can't use MoviePass until you get the actual MoviePass which happens to be this shiny red Mastercard.
3. Download the app, login, and check where you can go see a movie. The app is notoriously bare bones, buggy, and counter-intuitive, perhaps intentionally (?) The more people who use the service, the more money MoviePass technically loses. Let's just say they don't make it easy.
4. Find a theater playing a movie you want to see.
5. Unless that theater has e-ticketing (rare) you then physically go and stand within 100 yards of that theater (seriously), pick a movie and a showtime, and then "Check In." Important note that "Checking In" does not secure you a seat and if the movie happens to sell out before you get your ticket, you're shit out of luck. First time I tried to use my MoviePass this happened and that's when I also first met the oh-so accommodating and sympathetic MoviePass Help Bots.
6. As soon as you click that big red Check In button, MoviePass then instantly loads the full ticket price to your MoviePass debit card. You now have 30 minutes to go to the box office, swipe the card, and get your ticket.
I think it's important to note that the theater is in fact getting the full amount they would charge any customer, not some discounted rate negotiated for MoviePass. Which doesn't at all explain why you're likely to be treated like a second-class citizen by the theater staff for paying with MoviePass. More on that in a bit.
7. Within that 30 minute window you can now theoretically cancel your check-in or change your reservation to another show. But this functionality is sketchy at best and I've had it fail on me twice. Again, more on that in a bit! If you did in fact purchase a ticket, now it's time to verify it.
8. This is a relatively new requirement. I'm going to take a wild guess that previous to this ticket verification step, some users would check-in, have the $15 bucks loaded to the debit card, and then go across the street to the 7-Eleven and use those funds to buy a six pack and a jalapeno-cheese-injected hot dog instead. So, now we must verify.
Done! Now that MoviePass is off my ass, I can now enjoy my semi-free movie.
What to expect (and not):
1. If there's one thing you should NOT expect it's customer service. You're pretty much on your own. The first time I went to the Help page I encountered what appeared to be an inept series of automatic responses. "We understand your frustrations." "We're working hard to rectify the situation." "We're having problems with our reservation system right now." It wasn't until I got completely exasperated and threatened to quit the service that I (think) I got a human. At that point, I was told I was free to quit MoviePass at any time but was informed in almost threatening tone that if I did, I wouldn't be able to rejoin for 9 months. 9 months! In 9 months MoviePass could be long gone. Oh how I wish I had gotten a screenshot of that. A day later I went back to Help to find no record of my previous conversation. It's like they intentionally delete the Help history within a day so there's no real record of what was discussed. Another layer of the company's opaque way of doing business. Cover your tracks!
2. If you try to cancel/change your reservation, I'd say there's a 50/50 chance it will work. Your best bet, be damn sure that's the movie/showtime you want to see before hitting the Check In button. Last time I tried to change a reservation, the system wouldn't let me because it said I had an existing reservation. When I went to my "Current Reservation" page this is what I saw.
I was unable to penetrate through the Help Bots though my friend who was experiencing the exact same problem was somehow able to. Luck of the draw it seems. This is what I got—
After some tenacious probing this is what my friend got—
He actually gave them my name, they pulled up my account, and fixed the problem. This was only because he was lucky enough to get an actual human being on the Help Desk. It worked, we both got to see Sorry To Bother You using the MoviePass that night. All and all an equally ridiculous, hilarious, and extremely frustrating experience. This company desperately needs to get its shit together.
3. Don't expect to be treated pleasantly by theater staff. There seems to be this resentment towards MoviePass users like they're getting into movies for free when in reality, the theater is actually getting the full price for the ticket. Any time I've ever had problems using the MoviePass, I've gotten zero help from the theater staff. Really not much than sneers, like "You're the sucker with the MoviePass, the fact that it doesn't work isn't my problem."
At the end of the day, you may or may not see a semi-free movie with MoviePass. Just show up at the theater with crossed fingers, zero expectations, and hope for the best. But, it's pretty rad when it does actually work. I've had the service for 2 months so have paid $20 total to see all these movies. Not without some major drama and headaches though. But I've bought food and beers at the Alamo and Nitehawk so have contributed to their business. Seems like a winner as far as the theaters are concerned.
The adage, "You get what you pay for," has perhaps never been more applicable than here. How is MoviePass making any money? They're not. They're hemorrhaging cash and recently had to take out an emergency 6 million dollar loan to pay for user's tickets just last weekend. So they may be losing tons of money but you can rest assured that they're constantly tracking you and if they haven't already, will eventually sell your data. The company's business model is vague at best as is evident in their CEO's recent half-hearted apology letter that failed to make any mention that the monthly fee is increasing by 50% for reduced service.
Will this company even still be in business by the time I hit "publish?" Who the hell knows. Every time you use it, you really do feel like you're scamming someone but really you're only "scamming" MoviePass' unsustainable business model so enjoy it while it lasts. If you're on the fence, I'd say go for it. It's only $15 and you'll probably at least get a few movies out of it. Even if you only see one, it's already paid for itself.
Last note, it's hard to say how they're going to attract new users with higher fees and less service but personally, I hope they stick around a while longer because when it actually works, it's awesome. There a lot of opinion pieces on this out there, most are worth a read. I found this one particularly interesting.
And thank you for reading mine!
08/07/18—There's more! This company is hopelessly confused.
Dear MoviePass Member,
On August 15, 2018, we will hit the one-year anniversary of MoviePass’ revolutionary price point of $9.95 a month. We’ve experienced tremendous growth, and we know that at times, the frequent changes to our service have been frustrating to you. But through it all, one thing is clear: we’ve gotten people excited about going to the movies again.
Over the last year, we have tried different things and we’ve discovered what our members love about our service — the low price point and the ability to go to more than 91 percent of theaters nationwide. We’ve also learned what people don’t like about the service — features including Peak Pricing and Ticket Verification.
So now, with almost a full year of learnings under our belt, we’re introducing a new pricing plan that retains the features you love the most and removes the ones you don’t. Most importantly, this new plan will ensure that we can run a sustainable business and continue providing you with an amazing deal to go see movies in theaters.
Here are the details:
- Under our new plan, MoviePass members will be able to see up to three standard movies a month for $9.95, and be given up to a $5.00 discount to any additional movie tickets purchased. Today, 85 percent of MoviePass members go to three movies or less per month, so these changes cater to the majority of our movie-going community.
- The new plan will include many major studio first-run films, however, there will be some exceptions (note that theaters with e-ticketing will include all movies and showtimes with no restrictions).
- We will be suspending Peak Pricing and Ticket Verification requirements for all members in the new plan described above.
- Over the coming days, MoviePass members with a monthly subscription renewing on or after August 15th will be given the option in the MoviePass app to transition to the new plan. Quarterly and annual subscribers will not be impacted until their renewal date.
The truth is, disruption and innovation require staying flexible and having an open mind. We genuinely strive to offer you a service that is a great deal, and we believe that the new plan we’re introducing will be attractive to the majority of our members.
It’s been an exciting journey so far, and MoviePass is here to stay. Your endless support, understanding and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated.