With the number of video streaming services increasing all the time, it’s tempting to assume the death of cinema is nigh. After all, why would you pay $10 for one film when you can enjoy a whole month of Netflix for less?
Perhaps I’m being facetious. Going to the movie theater is still an enjoyable activity. However, it’s hard to deny that with progressively larger TV screens, better picture quality, and improvements in speaker systems, the difference between watching at home and heading to the cinema is narrowing.
One company — MoviePass — is trying to reverse the trend and inject new life into the theater-going experience. But what is MoviePass? How does it work? And how can it save you money? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about using MoviePass.
A Brief History of MoviePass
MoviePass is a subscription-based movie service. For a monthly fee, subscribers can watch up to one film per day in participating movie theaters.
The company started life in 2011 in New York. Initially, users could print off vouchers and redeem them for tickets. Interest remained relatively low until October 2012 when a subscription model replaced the voucher system.
Even then, the subscription model was restrictive. The number of films users could enjoy was determined by the size of the market in which they lived.
As recently as mid-2016, Chief Executive Officer Mitch Lowe said he had ambitions for an entry-level service that would cost around $20, with different payment tiers going as high as $100 for unlimited viewing.
The public still wasn’t enamored. By the end of 2016, the service still only had 20,000 subscribers.
Why Is MoviePass in the News Now?
So why is everyone suddenly interested in what appears to be a rather niche service? It’s all because, in August 2017, MoviePass became a bit of a bargain.
Analytics firm Helios and Matheson bought a majority stake in MoviePass and immediately announced it would lower the price for unlimited films to just $9.95 per month. Thus putting it into a similar price bracket as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and all of the other online streaming services.
Explaining the change, CEO Lowe said, “After years of studying and analysis we found that people want to go to the movies more often, but the pricing keeps going up, and that prevents them from going more. We’re making it more affordable for people.” (via Variety).
The company’s gamble quickly paid off. Reports suggest MoviePass picked up 150,000 new subscribers in the 48 hours after the announcement, and the number has continued to rise steadily ever since.
How Does MoviePass Work?
MoviePass relies on its accompanying Android or iOS app. If you don’t have access to either mobile operating system, you will not be able to use the service.
Once you’ve signed up and agreed to pay the $9.95-per-month fee, MoviePass will send a physical card to you in the post. Upon receipt of the card, you can activate the app and start buying tickets.
When you go to the movie theater, just make sure you take your MoviePass card with you. If you don’t have it, you will not be able to redeem your ticket and watch the film.
What Benefits Do Subscribers Enjoy?
At the time of writing, you can use your MoviePass card in 4,000 cinemas and across 36,000 individual screens. The company is adding new movie theaters all the time.
do yourself a favor and sign up for moviepass: it's 10$ a month and you get a ticket to any movie every day.
— joseph (@SealifeStefanik) August 20, 2017
You do not have to sign up for a 12-month contract. You can pay month-to-month and cancel at any time. Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about “blackout dates” at busy times of the year. You can use your subscription at any time.
You also don’t need to worry about availability. As soon as a movie hits the theaters, you can go and watch it — even on in-demand opening nights!
Of course, the service does have some limitations, most of which are understandable.
For example, you cannot watch 3D movies. Nor can you watch any other forms of “special screens” such as IMAX shows, film festivals, and so on.
Secondly, the plan only covers you for one non-transferable ticket. If you want to go and watch a movie with your partner, you’ll both need MoviePass memberships. And if you’re planning to take your kids, they’ll need to pay full price. Subscriptions are only available if you’re at least 18 years old.
The only other significant restriction that might inconvenience you is the inability to buy tickets in advance: you can only purchase a ticket for the same day.
And lastly — sorry non-Americans — MoviePass is only available within the borders of the United States at the moment.
Does the Service Have Longevity?
Clearly, subscribers are getting a great deal. The average price of a movie ticket in the United States is $9.33. If a MoviePass subscriber maximized their package and watched a film every day through a typical month, they would be paying just $0.32 per ticket.
But unsurprisingly, there’s already backlash from movie theater chains. AMC, the largest chain in America, slammed MoviePass in a blog post. It branded the service “a small fringe player,” claiming the service was not “in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theaters, and movie studios.”
The post went on to say that AMC was actively consulting legal professionals about the potential of blocking MoviePass in its theaters.
If AMC is successful in its blocking attempts, one can safely assume it will only be a matter of time before the other big chains follow suit.
At the time of writing, MoviePass looks like it’s here to stay. It’s received a deluge of positive press and is picking up new subscribers as a result.
It’s easy to draw parallels with the ongoing battle between Netflix and the cable TV companies. Chains such as AMC would be wise to pay attention to the cordcutting phenomenon. Is it that farfetched to claim we might start seeing MoviePass cinemas popping up in the years ahead? One senses we’re witnessing the early salvos in what could prove to be a long war.
Is MoviePass viable in the long term? Or will the movie theaters move to restrict its growth before it threatens their current model? As always, you can leave your opinions in the comments section below!