What the Tech? MoviePass Tries to Make a Comeback

By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter

For movie lovers, it was the greatest deal of the century. MoviePass received a standing ovation back in its early days.

Subscribers paid $10 a month for the opportunity to see one movie every day. If that sounds too good to be true, it wasn’t at first. MoviePass was too successful picking up at least 3 million members.

It was good while it lasted. MoviePass failed but is attempting another comeback.

This week, former MoviePass subscribers received an email announcing it is coming back under new management on Labor Day weekend.

Movie critic and former MoviePass subscriber John Ellis was taken aback when he opened the email. “My first thought was, you know, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…,” he laughed. “No thank you. It’s ah…I almost laughed at it.”

Ellis said he loved MoviePass and it allowed him to see tons of films at nearby theaters. He’s doubtful it’ll work this time around.

“I was going all the time and it started spreading and I started telling people. Everybody kept waiting on the catch, and turns out the catch was it’s not a sustainable program for them.”

For those who don’t remember, here’s how Movie Pass worked. The company sent its members a debit card. Each time a subscriber checked in at a theater with the Movie Pass app, the company put money on the debit card to cover the cost of the ticket.

With millions of subscribers though and no discounts from movie theater chains, MoviePass was losing $40-$45 million a
month, it was never profitable.

As it grew, MoviePass changed its terms time and time again. First raising the price, then limiting when subscribers could use the debit card, to finally limiting which movies and times it would pay for tickets. By 2016 millions of subscribers disappeared and MoviePass went into bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy judge approved the sale of MoviePass to one of its original owners, making it possible for another run.

If anything good came out of MoviePass Ellis said, is that it led theater chains to launch their own subscription packages. AMC offers members 3 movies a week for $20/month.

Regal Cinema has a similar deal good at its theaters that costs $20 a month for up to a movie a day in standard definition.

“They invented the product,” Ellis said of MoviePass. “They showed movie theaters it can work and they were like, okay, thanks for the idea. We’ll take this. See you later.”

Now that those chains have their own membership deals, Ellis says they have no reason to offer any discounts to MoviePass, leading him and other former subscribers to believe the MoviePass sequel will be a box office flop.

MoviePass hasn’t released details of its new plans but does say on its website that there will be three tiers that cost, $10, $20, and $30 a month. The site also says its packages will provide benefits on a points system but hasn’t said how many movies you’ll be able to see and where.

 

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