Unless there’s a hell of a twist ending, MoviePass will end exactly as viewers predicted all along.
MoviePass ran out of money last week. Users experienced outages and complained about surge pricing. This week, MoviePass increased its monthly subscription cost from $10 to $15. While the company made moviegoing more affordable for millions, it hasn’t been able to turn that popularity into profitability.
But despte horror stories about awful customer service, MoviePass still keeps their members in the dark. Users have been left hanging as the company issues statement after statement about its uncertain future. Jose Roldan, founder of the MoviePass Chatter Facebook group, has had a front row seat for the MoviePass drama. Lately, he said, the front row is growing ever more crowded.
“All this drama going on with MoviePass has doubled my group’s membership,” he says. “They all want answers.”
Roldan’s group has offered technical support MoviePass users to fill the void left by the MoviePass’s unresponsive customer service for more than a year. MoviePass Chatter now boasts 8,100 members, almost double the 4,200 headcount it had when I spoke with Roldan in April. But for all the information it provides, the group’s moderators can’t answer all the questions about ticketing outages, price changes and movie availability. They don’t know what’s going to happen at MoviePass. It’s not certain anyone does.
“MoviePass isn’t telling us anything other than they will have it fixed,” Roldan says.
MoviePass has always seemed too good to be true, offering unlimited movies per month for the price of less than one ticket. Its subscription base skyrocketed to more than 3 million users over the past year as the company lost money on virtually every individual ticket sale. Executives hoped their enormous data pool would entice movie studios or large theater companies into exclusive deals. But instead of partnering with MoviePass, theater chains opted to replicate MoviePass instead. AMC and Regal created their own subscription-based services with exclusive deals on ticketing, snacks and premium screenings like IMAX and 3D. Sinemia, a similar subscription service where users pay for a certain number of tickets per month, cropped up as a cheaper competitor.
MoviePass’s future looks bleak at the moment. Last week its parent company Helios and Matheson had to borrow more than $6 million to pay theaters. After the company ran out of money, users complained about surge pricing—extra charges attached to certain movie tickets, some as high as eight dollars per movie. Business Insider reported that CEO Mitch Lowe told employees the company would stop supporting major features. With higher fees, extra charges and fewer movies, MoviePass is defeating the purpose of signing up for a subscription service in the first place.
“Surge pricing is the biggest problem to me,” Roldan says. “Paying one or two dollars is okay, but an extra six or eight dollars [extra] per movie is just crazy.”
Roldan hopes MoviePass will figure things out. He says the company regularly monitors groups like MoviePass Chatter to see what customers are discussing or worried about. The company has tweaked its approach several times before and could again.
But even the company’s most ardent supporters are ticked off. And if things keep going in that direction, MoviePass’ final credits could roll sooner than anticipated.