A MoviePass Memorial

MoviePass is not surely alive, roaring like a lion

It’s merely dead.

MoviePass, the company that allowed people to see a movie a day for a $9.95 monthly charge, is finally dead. While a former CEO of MoviePass has just made an offer to buy MoviePass and revive it, for the time being, the service that did manage to revolutionize moviegoing domestically has come to an end. Movie theater owners who poo-pooed the idea of this service being sustainable long-term ended up being right but MoviePass may have gotten the last laugh considering that now all the major theater chains have got their own subscription services emulating MoviePass. The service was so successful that people have become accustomed to paying a monthly fee to watch movies theatrically, movie theaters had no choice but to recognize that. To quote Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, “You’ve changed things. Forever. There’s no going back.”

I came to MoviePass actually long before the service did its famous reduction to a $10 monthly fee that got it on so many people’s radar. The name MoviePass had been on my ears for a good long while before I joined in September 2015 for a $35 monthly fee. To give you an idea of how long I’ve been on the MoviePass bandwagon, I joined the service before Netflix started doing original feature films! Anywho, for someone like me who tries to catch all the major theatrical releases, MoviePass was a Godsend. For a monthly fee just under what I would pay for four matinee tickets, I could see a movie a day! How glorious!

In this format, MoviePass was pretty much perfect for me, but I had no complaints when they reduced the price down to $10. MoviePass going down to this low monthly price was like taking an already delicious sundae and then tossing some Milk Chocolate M&M’s on top of it, something already delightful got that much sweeter. Not only would this save me some cash but in the broader picture, it would also allow a greater range of people to utilize the service and go to their theater more regularly. Cash-strapped moviegoers could now take a chance on smaller indie titles thanks to the power of MoviePass. Helping to make art more accessible to the general public? I’m always gonna like that.

I can’t even begin to count the movies I saw in the first three years I had MoviePass, nor can I count the amount of money it saved me. In its $10 a month form, MoviePass seemed too good to be true, yet, here it was! But all good things come to an end and starting in April 2018, the MoviePass paradise began to unravel. This is when the unlimited movies plan was discontinued for new customers, a blow to those wanting to utilize the optimal version of MoviePass. Then, the first releases for the MoviePass studio MoviePass Ventures, American Animals and the infamous Gotti, flopped in June 2018. The $10 a month version of MoviePass was intended to help springboard MoviePass into a larger media empire, but the struggles of MoviePass Ventures showed that making such a dream a reality would be much harder than expected.

Much more pressing issues soon emerged in the form of major financial hardships for MoviePass soon followed, which led to the infamous MoviePass shutdown over the last weekend of July 2018 that took everyone by surprise and led to people, myself included, thinking MoviePass was going down for good. But like Rocky Balboa in the final fight of a Rocky movie, MoviePass was coming back from a brutal punch for more. Now MoviePass would limit people to only three movies a month for a $10 monthly charge. Oh, and you could only see certain movies on certain days. Certain showtimes would also be blocked without warning. MoviePass had gone from being a dream to a nightmare in just a short span of time.

Though the company was now trying to get back on track as big media company, most notably by turning MoviePass Ventures into MoviePass Films after buying direct-to-video movie production outfit Emmet/Furla/Oasis Films, the erratic nature of the MoviePass service led to a massive exodus of customers. 90% of its customers were gone by the time October 2018 rolled around and the presence of new more reliable subscription services like AMC A-List ensured that customers didn’t have to rely on the untrustworthy MoviePass to get their fix of daily cinema. As if matters couldn’t have been worse for MoviePass, a pair of lawsuits were filed against the company in response to their shady behavior.

As for me and my own experiences with MoviePass, the last year of using the service (yes, I was one of the 10% who stuck around) was, more often than not, miserable. The app stopped supporting certain theaters without warning, showtimes were constantly vanishing, keeping track of what movies were available when could make your head swim, the problems were endless. MoviePass used to be a savior for a movie buff like me. Now it was a punchline between me and my friends, a go-to example for what happens when promising businesses go awry. The steady stream of news stories regarding how badly MoviePass treated its customers are consistently shocking but not surprising given the companies poor track record with its customer base. Heck, I had a glitch on my MoviePass app that the companies customer service line always refused to help out with. They’d always give me a phoned-in “Our technical team is working on it” line, if they didn’t hang up mid-conversation first!

It’s such a shame to see MoviePass become such a repugnant shell of its former self. This really was a wonderful service that, at one point in time, did so much for me and for the general public. Theatrical moviegoing, that wonderful event that allows people to watch art while also connecting with a roomful of strangers, was made much more accessible to the general public for the first time in eons. If there are any lessons to take away from the whole MoviePass debacle, it’s that people do love going to the movie theater and that we should be doing what we can to make that experience financially attainable to everyone. Those are the very ideas that fueled the rise of MoviePass while its downfall was ensured by turning its back on those concepts.