The Rise, Fall and Suicide Letter of MoviePass

If it weren’t for MoviePass, it’s unlikely this site ever launches. Granted I’ve been on an extended hiatus from writing reviews which would make it seem as if this site were dead but unlike the subject of this post, Movie Hot Take was just in hibernation. From 2015-2018, a sizable segment of the 535 movies reviewed on this site were seen using MoviePass. At its apex, I squeezed in 21 films in a month with the one-a-day, limitless version of MoviePass. There was a huge upside to the “too good to be true” offering for movie buffs and with Saturday’s announcement that MoviePass is essentially done that “too good to be true” concern became reality. Though, to be fair, MoviePass’s death rattle was underway for months and the bold product had more ups and downs than a roller coaster and MoviePass had so many self-inflicted wounds it was always a temptation to call the proper authorities to have the company checked out for depression.

Dear MoviePass™ Subscribers,

Over the past several months, MoviePass™ worked hard to relaunch its groundbreaking subscription service and recapitalize the company.While we were able to relaunch the service for some of our subscribers with an improved technology platform, our efforts to recapitalize the company have not been successful to date.

Any existing MoviePass customer ever forced to contact the company’s customer support knows that “Dear” is strictly used as a greeting to begin a letter. As a MoviePass customer since it’s earlier days and for most of the company’s existence, the rest of that opening statement is laughable. In the beginning, MoviePass wasn’t even that cheap. Paying $45 a month when I initially signed up, seeing 10-15 movies a month felt necessary to get real value from the product. As a high frequency customer, it was the company’s insane decision to introduce dynamic pricing and the company upping my price to $100 a month that made me decide thanks but no thanks.

There was a short window where I had to rely on my 200,000+ Regal Crown Club points to keep my movie habit going. Then the unthinkable happened when MoviePass was taken over by Mitch Lowe who lowered the price to $9.95 a month for a movie a day. I quickly hopped back on board the MoviePass train and looked the other way as numerous customer service gaffes plagued the incredibly cheap way to see 100s of movies a year. From constant app failures to a frequent request for pictures of my ticket to prove I know how to take a picture (I guess?) to other minor nuisances, the next few sentences of Lowe’s letter came as no surprise.

As a result, it pains us to inform you that effective at 8 a.m. E.T. on September 14, 2019, we must interrupt service for all current MoviePass™ subscribers. MoviePass™ will be providing subscribers with appropriate refunds for their period of service already paid for. Subscribers will not need to request a refund or contact MoviePass™ customer service to receive a refund. Subscribers will not be charged during the service interruption. At this point, we are unable to predict if or when the MoviePass™ service will continue.

Ironically, the fact that Lowe felt the need to tell the consumer to please not contact customer service when most if not all probably had to contact customer service in the last few months and likely had a truly miserable experience shows how out of touch MoviePass is with their customer. If somehow MoviePass came back to life for me (it had already been restarted for the lower frequency customers) after it was shut down on July 4th, I would have been more inclined to call my credit card company to dispute charges from MoviePass rather than contact their customer service one more time.

We still deeply believe in the need for the MoviePass™ service in the marketplace, to maintain affordable access to theaters and provide movie lovers with choices of where to go to the movies.

Yes, it’s called AMC A-List or Regal Unlimited. The theater companies finally got on board with the subscription model and now MoviePass like other past companies who couldn’t get out of their own way now find themselves with competition they could no longer compete against.

In August 2017, MoviePass™ began a transformation of the moviegoing industry by introducing its low monthly price subscription service.

This could have been re-written to say in August 2017, MoviePass began a transformation from struggling start up to bankruptcy.

Since then, others in the industry have followed our lead.

And they were able to do exactly what MoviePass could do without the horrible missteps and customer unfriendly decisions. Some, like eliminating unlimited movies per month, were transparent. Others, like switching the password of high frequency users unbeknownst to the account owner and “throttling” high frequency users by de-listing movie showtimes early on in the day.

Now, as a result of this transformation, movie lovers throughout the United States have the ability to see movies in theaters using subscription services at prices they can actually afford, albeit with limited choices of theaters using those services.

So, instead of saying, “We f____d up!”, MoviePass is patting itself on the back for “changing the business” while throwing shade on their competitors. It’s one last classless move by the company who thought it could build a business model around data collection.

In the course of this industry transformation, MoviePass™ has experienced setbacks and challenges that are well known.

Wasn’t the setback why ran out of money? And wasn’t the challenge the product they offered required their customers to NOT use the product for the company to make money off of an existing customer?

Nevertheless, MoviePass™ remained committed to leading and competing in an industry that is resistant to outside competition and change. We believe that fostering competition and change in the moviegoing industry is critical to the satisfaction of the moviegoing public and filmmakers alike.

Except movies are now experiencing shorter runs in theaters than ever or just heading straight to Netflix and there have been more weeks released with just 1 wide release in recent memory than I can remember. Plus, box office revenues are down 6% year over year. How impactful has this change been?

We thank you for your loyalty to MoviePass™ and sharing our vision for the industry. Although we do not currently know what the future holds for the MoviePass™ service, we hope to find a path that will enable us to continue the service in the future.

Sincerely,

Mitch Lowe

Come on! What future? Could a brand be more damaged than MoviePass? For the past year, once the company ran out of money and couldn’t pay the credit card bills, MoviePass was just a punchline. Hell, if you asked most people what they thought of this announcement, they’d be likely to be surprised MoviePass wasn’t already out of business. Even if there was value in the MoviePass name at one point, how could a company that constantly screwed over it’s customers for over a year ever be trusted again? I wish it weren’t true. I loved MoviePass. However, it’s a “Fool me once…” kind of thing at this point and I’ll have to settle for Regal Unlimited (slightly better than AMC A-List) and won’t give MoviePass a second thought.

It’s a bittersweet ending but was never a question of if it would end the way it did but when. For those of us who had MoviePass through the highs and lows, I’m sure we’ll miss it much like one thinks fondly back to a time when they went to Blockbuster to rent a movie. However, none of us would give up our streaming services to sweat out late fees and contemplate overpriced movie theater-inspired snacks, would we?

 

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