What Happened To MoviePass?

Many have taken this time to speculate that this is the end of MoviePass, which had hopes despite a risky business model.

By Sean D. Hartman

When people first heard of MoviePass, they may have thought it was an amazing idea or too good to be true.  A cinematic Netflix, the goal was to offer essentially unlimited movies for $9.99 a month, a price lower than most movie tickets.  I have utilized this service, and its why you have read several of my amazing movie reviews.

But seeing as my next movie review was going to be about Mission Impossible: Fallout, it is lucky that it wasn’t, as MoviePass has descended into chaos when Thursday the entire company, quite literally, “ran out of money.”

Thursday night, when many MoviePass goers wanting to see Mission Impossible, no one could purchase their tickets and millions of moviegoers were left stranded.

This crisis led to a massive publicity issue for the upstart, who had recently taken out a loan for $6 million to stay afloat.  

Though most of the difficulties were handled by MoviePass, continuous problems are making the service much more difficult to use.  Over the weekend, Mission Impossible: Fallout stayed as a “premium screening”, unavailable to the average user.  And on Sunday, several other popular movies such as The Incredibles 2 suddenly disappeared from the queues.

Many have taken this time to speculate that this is the end of MoviePass, which had hopes despite a risky business model.

MoviePass wanted to bring the monthly service model that has made digital media popular into the overpriced cinema market.  Similar ideas have been tried and failed by other cinemas due to the exorbitant high price of movie tickets. Yet MoviePass felt that, with a monthly fee of less than most cinema tickets, you can have unlimited movies.

The MoviePass model depended on massive activity in rural communities where cinema prices were lower, as well as hoping, somehow, that people who can see a movie a day would not actually see a movie a day.

In hindsight, this model showed its first signs of floundering when, to raise immediate capital, beta tested a $99.99 annual pass.  But neither that nor emergency loans did not prevent a very real fallout for passholders.

Several are speculating that MoviePass is preparing to go under, screwing over millions of passholders.  However, what is much more likely, or at least wiser, is a major restructuring of their business model.

MoviePass begun making minor reforms with the adding of surge pricing, where more popular movie times require an additional fee.  But with the recent crisis, this new restructuring may lead to an entire redesign of the MoviePass program, likely angering current passholders.

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe sent out a letter to passholders announcing certain modifications as they adjust their business model, including reducing availability for new releases, and eliminating showtimes throughout the day at random.  This is temporary, as MoviePass prepares for a massive restructure.

Not only that, MoviePass is in the process of losing AMC Cinemas, who have implemented their own schemata, but with a limited number of movies.  MoviePass could follow a similar model, potentially limiting passholders to one movie a week. This is still a fantastic deal, with four movies for less than the price of one in most markets.

In addition, to save even more money, MoviePass could just ignore a rollover, meaning that cinema goers would have to see that movie that week or lose it.  This would certainly frustrate passholders, but it does not devalue the product, and MoviePass would not see a major exodus.

MoviePass is a popular service that did not predict its popularity.  Their model requires a complete overhaul is necessary to survive. It may be unpopular, but it is necessary.


Sean David Hartman is a reporter for the Central Florida Post, covering entertainment and public affairs. He describes himself as a “Professional Political Nuisance” and goes after politicians on both sides. Hartman is an autism rights activist, and #ProudlyAutistic.