MoviePass Returns After Its Disastrous, Comical Implosion

from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept

After imploding in a spectacular fireball several years ago, MoviePass is giving things another try.

The service has announced that it’s preparing to relaunch on Labor Day, nearly three years after the company was effectively shamed out of existence in spectacular fashion. While the remnants of MoviePass were sold to a private equity firm in 2017, original co-founder Stacy Spikes bought the company back last year and hopes customers have short memories.

Originally, the MoviePass business model seemed like a semi-sensible idea, though we were quick to wonder if it would ever actually make a profit.

Under the model, users paid $30 (eventually $10) a month in exchange for unlimited movie tickets at participating theaters, provided they signed up for a full year of service. There were, of course, caveats: you could only buy a ticket per day, and could only buy one ticket per movie. It also prohibited users from viewing 3D, IMAX, or XD films. Still, the proposal was widely heralded by some as a savior for the traditional, brick and mortar, sticky floor movie industry.

It wound up… not being that.

In 2019, a four-month investigation by Business Insider revealed MoviePass had been bleeding money for years, and misleading investors for much of that time. Not only was the idea never really profitable, the company couldn’t even manage to acquire enough plastic to keep up with membership card demand.

Showcasing the width and depth of the dodgy effort, at one point executives genuinely thought it would be a good idea to actually change user passwords so they couldn’t use the service, thinking this would give them enough time to get their head above water:

“The company tried other tactics to actively make its service hard to use, like when it limited the ability for users to see high-profile films like Avengers: Infinity War and Mission Impossible: Fallout. Employees say Lowe demanded they change the passwords of “a small percentage of power users” ahead of those releases to prevent them from ordering tickets through the app, telling people that it was a “technical issue.”

Given that degree of fraud and incompetence, it’s fairly incredible that the brand is nontoxic enough to even consider a relaunch. The reconstituted service will cost somewhere between $10 and $30, though users will have to join a waitlist to participate in the new beta.

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Comments on “MoviePass Returns After Its Disastrous, Comical Implosion”

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Dr. Fancypants, Esq. says:

These are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand

I have professional familiarity with this company from years ago, and I believe I can say (without breaching any privilege obligations I have) that the guys running this company were… never particularly sharp. The only that’s surprised me about them is that they’ve somehow managed to stay in business this long.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It wasn’t that it was an all you can eat buffet (those do exist, after all), it was that every item on the buffet was purchased at retail from another restaurant.

But that’s the point. Nobody would think “well, the average restaurant meal is $10, and those restaurants are making money, so if we charge $15 for all-you-can-eat, we’ll make even more money!”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Meet the new boss, literally the same as the old boss

You almost have to admire the sheer chutzpah it takes to bank your entire relaunched business on no-one doing any research or having any memory of what you did to it the first time around, but I suppose with a large enough market there’s bound to be plenty of people who will fall into one of those categories.

Anonymous Coward says:


I suppose with a large enough market there’s bound to be plenty of people who will fall into one of those categories.

To be clear, you’re using “market” to mean “pool of dumb investors”, right? ‘Cause there’s no reason the customers shouldn’t take a deal in which they pay $10 per month and get to spend $15 per day. Just do a chargeback when they inevitably go bankrupt or defraud people again.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:


I’m a member of AMC A*List and live in Manhattan, and that service is wonderful (and who knows how long it will be sustainable). I pay $25 a month, and for that I get to see three movies a week, with no exclusions or surcharges for the high-quality formats. Manhattan has many AMCs, and the one on 42nd St. plays foreign films as well as the normal releases.

It’s hard to imagine that MoviePass will be able to make inroads into that.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:


Probably not. But AMC doesn’t have much reach outside major cities.
I give them credit on appealing to a wide audience though. Film support appears to vary by region but they do carry Indian, Italian, Polish, and Russian films (did on the latter anyway).

My only complaint would be that most their Indian films appear to be dubbed into Hindi. Regardless of the region they came from. I can’t tell if that’s an AMC choice or the distributor they have.

But I’ve seen a few there over the years.
Chak De India the last I saw at AMC thought for Indian films.
Two Witchboard films on MP at AMC and I have to say they’re the only multi/mega-plex I’ve seen manage to keep subtitles on the screen!
So often they’re below the screen or cut off.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Re: Re: AMC Languages

For today, the AMC 25 on 42nd St. in Manhattan has movies in Japanese, Korean, Hindi, and Tagalog. Not bad for a single theater. Of course living in Manhattan makes me spoiled; I have eight AMCs in either walking distance or a short commute by bus or subway.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Chicago’s got a dozen or so. And amc was always great on what they carried.
But we still have the 70s era arthouse scene. Literally hundreds and hundreds of small theatres. 1-4 screens. They’ll play big movies on weekends. But the independent screen is to do for.
Great festivals too.

There’s a lost social aspect of jamming 50 people in a one-screen who all want to see the FILM, and not “go to the movies”.
The crowd is better, the food is better, the popcorn butter is actually butter!
And there’s “wild marathons” here.
Film, popcorn, 50oz drink, hotdog, and nachos. $15.99

We had a robocop marathon I missed during covid. State distancing made it 25 spots. Nearly 9 hours back to back, including CJ.
Creature/came from the see: straight.
Friday the 13th complete.

Last one I went to was Heavy Metal duology. $22 for everything!

Christenson says:

Think of the consumer

MoviePass looks like a good deal for me…every Saturday night I spend $7.50 for a seat just to get out of the house and not go stir-crazy. $10 a month for that is a steal, just as long as these guys have deep enough pockets to last six months or so and my local chain doesn’t close the doors.

Too bad about their investors — my money is on Alamo Cinemas, where I get dinner with my movie.

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:

They are back and I will be too!

Already hound the waiting list.
The biggest problem with MoviePass was it wasn’t narrowly targeted in how it did things.
Giving the general public the opportunity to go see a film they were going to pay for, a free ticket, isn’t helping anyone. Industry wise.

With a waitlist and the obvious, but unstated, vetting going into the relaunch… maybe it will work out this time.

But they need to carefully tailor it to people like myself, film buffs.
People with no interest in seeing a “high-profile film” in a theatre because such films attract large amounts of the general public. Meaning loud noisy, rude, general public with no comprehension on proper theatre etiquette.

The last time I stepped into a theatre for a public showing was with MoviePass card in hand. All but two of the shows I used MP for were at theatres with less than 5 screens. If they even had more than one. Rarely a big studio production. Mostly foreign, independent, and art-house films.

And we are the perfect target for such a program. We’re not taking money out of production as we weren’t going to your big opening weekend in the first place.
MoviePass could be, the public-ish version of private films review groups I am a member of years ago. Free film for a review. Good or bad. And totally anonymous outside of private screenings.

The problem was they didn’t put enough rules in place at the beginning.
Block-outs for particular companies should be done and told to members upfront.

Then again, a free ticket is the only way you’ll get me into a Hollywood “blockbuster” at a megaplex. And that’s still unlikely even totally free and no strings attached.
why should I attend a film talked over by hundreds of slobs dumping food and drink all over the place? And having to climb over people and walk on the mess from the last show? Crying infants, talking, snogging!??
Much of Hollywood fair would require them paying me double ticket price cash in hand to go through that torture.

nerdrage (profile) says:

what was the idea anyway?

What was MoviePass’ supposed business model?

-Gym membership concept? People will buy passes and then not use them. Problem is: people don’t like to go to the gym. They like going to movies. And MoviePass didn’t own the theaters. They still had to buy tickets at full price.

-Data selling concept? Maybe they wanted to collect customer data and then use it to barter with the theaters to get a break on tickets. Problem is: the theaters can make their own passes and collect their own damn data. Why share it with a middleman? And that’s exactly what they did.

Anonymous Coward says:


And MoviePass didn’t own the theaters. They still had to buy tickets at full price. […] Maybe they wanted to collect customer data and then use it to barter with the theaters to get a break on tickets.

Yeah, as I recall, the idea was something like that. They’d charge people $20/month, borrow investor money to pay the theaters sometimes upwards of $10 for each ticket (implicitly relying on weak US regulation of unfair competition) and build up a large customer base. They’d use that, and the data, to negotiate a better deal. If there were a lot of customers and they partnered with one theater chain, every other chain would then feel pressured to join—better to get a small kickback for each ticket than be completely ignored by the young customers. And then subscription prices would go up.

A platform to sell tickets and collect statistics certainly doesn’t seem like anything novel. More like the type of thing one could hack up in a weekend (and I kind of did, for an introductory programming class assignment 20 years ago…). Or license from any number of companies such as TicketMaster.

But Uber built a glorified taxi dispatch system and got valued at upward of 50 billion dollars, never having been profitable. The modern “dot-com” economy doesn’t seem all that different from the ’90s bubble. Or the late ’80s “First CityWide Change Bank” skits on Saturday Night Live (“All the time, our customers ask us: ‘How do you make money doing this?’. The answer is simple: volume.”)

Anonymous Coward says:


Well, it’s a very short-term Ponzi scheme, in which you can withdraw money quickly enough to come out ahead within 2 days—plus you’ve got the standard credit-card protections. It’s not the beta participants that are likely to be screwed, it’s the investors (and for all I know, MoviePass might be telling them they’re not profitable and won’t be anytime soon).

Christenson says:

Re: Re: Moviegoers

It’s a great deal for movie buffs, it only has to last a month or two before they have recovered their money. Investors? Not so much, without some re-alignment of the
$8 to $10 being charged for movie tickets.

It might work for arthouses, but I have my doubts about blockbusters; Netflix is just too easy!

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