The rise and fall of MoviePass

Wesley Stenzel, Staff Writer

When MoviePass first announced its monumental price drop last August, it was a movie-lover’s dream come true: near-unlimited movie tickets for only ten dollars a month, a price lower than the cost of one ticket in many parts of the country. However, the company’s long-term viability has been questionable since its beginning. After numerous policy changes and system errors, is MoviePass still a worthy subscription?

MoviePass initially launched in 2012, with subscriptions costing between $29 and $34 depending on the customer’s location. Users paid their monthly fees in exchange for a debit card that could purchase one movie ticket per day. The business model functions similarly to insurance: the company relies on some customers to pay for the service and neglect to use it, thus offsetting the cost of the users who utilize the service more frequently. This initial subscription was really only a good deal if one spends more than $30 on movie tickets every month. This plan existed for about five years and attracted a relatively small base of users, but ultimately made a profit on customers that didn’t see very many movies every month.

Suddenly, in August 2017, MoviePass dropped its price to $10 a month for the exact same service as before. The business model didn’t make sense anymore: one movie ticket usually costs more than $10, so the company would lose money on any customer that used the service just once a month. Somehow, the movie-a-day plan managed to stay afloat for almost an entire year, and even spawned rival movie subscription companies like Sinemia and AMC A-List. This iteration of the service was a fantastic value, especially for college students on limited budgets. The service was entirely reliable, and the only major shake-up occurred when the popularity of “Avengers: Infinity War” in April prompted the company to end repeated viewings of the same film.

Unfortunately, skeptics of the service were proven right at the end of July. After months of losing money, the release of “Mission Impossible: Fallout” marked the true beginning of the end for MoviePass. The Tom Cruise film attracted so many customers that MoviePass completely crashed for an entire weekend. When it finally returned, the company updated its terms of service to state that most wide-release films––including almost any movie from Disney, Universal, Warner Brothers, and Fox––would be unavailable for their first several weeks of release.

Then, after multiple additional outages in August, MoviePass announced that customers would now only be able to see three movies a month––certainly a step down from the previous one-movie-a-day plan. A couple weeks later, the restrictions worsened: only five or six pre-selected movies would be available each day, and the list of films would change every day.  This was the last change that MoviePass made, and is the current iteration of its service. Many other Westmont MoviePass users reported the same problem. For all these reasons, MoviePass is no longer a good value for Westmont students.  

If students still want to see movies for cheap, there are still a variety of alternatives.  WAC will be selling $5 movie tickets on November 7. All of Santa Barbara’s theatres have discount Tuesday prices, so matinees only cost $5, and evening showings are $7.50. The MoviePass rival, Sinemia, is also a viable option––it basically offers the same service as MoviePass for a similar price, but is generally more reliable and less restrictive. Additional movie-subscription programs also may spring up in the future.