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Is MoviePass worth it for you?…

Posted on August 21st, 2017
Posted on August 21st, 2017

by Coop Cooper

It sounds too good to be true, having the option to watch unlimited movies at at theater for only $9.95 a month. That’s exactly what Mitch Lowe, one of the founders of Netflix, is peddling to the masses. Founded in 2011, the services immediately felt resistance from theater chains over the concept. After a long ‘beta-trial’ process which included testing different price options which ranged from $20 low-price options to $99 a month in some locations. Two weeks ago, MoviePass announced the new $10 a month pricing option and consumers scrambled to sign up, crashing the MoviePass website and opening the discussion as to how this was going to work for consumers and how MoviePass, and theater chains, were going to make money off of this risky venture.

Here is how it is supposed to work: You sign up at www.moviepass.com and the company sends you a prepaid debit card in the mail. Then you must use the MoviePass mobile app to ‘check-in’ at the theater where you must select the film and screening you want to see within a 30 minute window. MoviePass loads the debit card with the proper amount of money for the screening. The viewer can then use the MoviePass debit card to buy their ticket at the box office. You sacrifice a bit of convenience, but as long as the process works, it seems like a terrific bargain as long as the app doesn’t crash or any other issue arises that might keep you from getting the ticket through the service.

However, there are some heavy limitations… First of all, the MoviePass website isn’t very forthcoming about what theaters/locations accept the service. You have to sign up for the service first in order to check and see which theaters near your zip code accept the pass. This alone kept me from signing up right away, even though the company claims the service is supported by 91% of movie theaters in the U.S. Secondly, you can only watch one movie per day and it cannot be a 3D or IMAX format film. Sounds reasonable, but things get more complicated from there. You also can’t buy a ticket any sooner than 30 minutes in advance of the scheduled screening time. This will cause complications for those wanting to reserve a ticket for highly-anticipated releases, like the next “Star Wars” film, a day or two (or a month) in advance, forcing them to buy a ticket. Also, you can’t see the same movie more than once through the service, even if it is on a different day than your initial screening. One of the biggest drawbacks is you can’t use your MoviePass to buy more than one ticket which is kind of off-putting and complicated if you are on a date or treating your family.

How can MoviePass make money from this? Like a gym membership or a annual pass at Disneyland, they are counting on the vast majority of customers not using the service very often at all. The average person goes to the movies far less than once a month. MoviePass is hoping that most people will sign up and only use it a couple of times a year, if at all. They will most likely lose money if their customers use the card at least once a month (ticket prices vary from chain-to-chain and at certain times of the day), but MoviePass has another angle for generating profits. They plan to sell customer data to theater chains and movie studios, much like online companies who sell customer data to spammers who in turn blow up inboxes with Viagra advertisements and exclusive vacation rental deals. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be so terrible considering the data could be used to help the film industry figure out what would attract more moviegoers to the theater, but no one likes their privacy exposed.

Additionally, AMC Theaters is filing a lawsuit to get out of their contract with MoviePass, even though they initially agreed to it. Once AMC found out that MoviePass was dropping their price to $10 a month, they decided this was a bad business model and might ultimately fail. At first glance, this shouldn’t matter to AMC because they get paid for each customer viewing one way or another, but what they are actually concerned about is consumer trust. If MoviePass fails, AMC will shoulder some of that consumer blame when viewers show up to the theater and their card no longer works. Such a thing could turn people against the chain or movie theaters in general, thus hurting the industry. AMC doesn’t want to risk losing customers over an experimental service which may fold quickly and leave customers disappointed, and this is understandable.

Is MoviePass worth it? I’m not sure yet. While I am the perfect demographic to market this service to, I have concerns about it and I’d like to see if it the service can survive past Christmas and plug up some of the holes that makes it less convenient to use. I also want to see what sort of consumer complaints crop up. Are people having trouble reserving a ticket with the app? Are cards being rejected? Will they suddenly raise the subscription price? Does MoviePass make it difficult to cancel the service? Will it last? These are things I need to know before taking the plunge. This service would most certainly lose money on a guy like me, but for the average person/family, especially in rural areas who goes to the movies less than once a month, MoviePass wouldn’t be practical at all.

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