MoviePass members are bracing for the possible loss of their favorite new subscription service.
MoviePass may have been too good to be true, after all.
The groundbreaking movie ticket subscription, which reeled people in by charging just $9.95 a month to watch unlimited films in theaters, appears to be on the brink of going under.
MoviePass’s parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics announced on Monday that it’s limiting the number of movies customers are able to see to just three per month, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new restriction going into effect on Aug. 15 will erase the previously announced emergency measures such as surge pricing of $2 to $6 extra for hot movies at peak times and raising the flat monthly fee to $14.95 to stay afloat. The new movie cap is intended to reduce the company’s cash burn by more than 60%, and comes after reports that the company lost about $40 million in May. The company has also borrowed $5 million and split its stock (which has plummeted as low as $0.77 a share) over the past couple of weeks to keep the service running.
But the shifting policy changes and app glitches are leaving MoviePass subscribers disappointed and angry as they realize that the service may soon leave theaters forever.
Mike Incavo, 24, was drawn to MoviePass because of the low price, and used it to see two movies per month. But as the company began changing its terms and rules, he told Moneyish that he could no longer just look up movies, arrive at a theater and see a show on a whim. So he ended his membership last week and signed up for rival service Sinemia instead. The L.A-based subscription service offers plans ranging from $3.99 to see one movie per month, to $14.99 to see three movies per month, after a $19.99 signup fee.
“The [MoviePass] movie lookup system has always been incomplete, and knowing now that showtimes are being restricted from the already incomplete list is just too much for me,” said the PR publicist from Houston. “I don’t want to see 3D movies; I don’t want to see XD movies or IMAX. I just want to see normal films at my leisure with low friction and on a cheap prepaid subscription. But it appears that’s no longer on offer from MoviePass.”
Bob Fisher, 75, from Los Angeles, who is an avid moviegoer and has been a subscriber for about five months, thought MoviePass was great at first. But he became frustrated when he said the service started to “nickel and dime” its subscribers. “I would rather pay a one-time significant monthly hike and be done with it, and have the system operate as intended, instead of having them tweak it constantly like a ‘death of a thousand cuts,’” he told Moneyish. But despite this, he plans to stick it out with MoviePass.
Some disgruntled MoviePass members are moving to other subscription services like Sinemia and AMC’s new Stubs A-List plan, which lets users see three movies a week at any AMC movie theater — along with access to IMAX and 3D movies and reserved seating — for $19.95 a month. (MoviePass, on the other hand, requires users to check in at the theater and find seats on the fly — if any are available).
Challee Stefani, 31, and her boyfriend just switched from MoviePass to AMC’s A-List to feed their five to six-movies-a-month habit. “With the recent changes, we decided to switch,” the D.C. native told Moneyish. “The slightly higher cost of AMC’s program was worth it, because we can see big blockbuster films the weekend they are released, and be able to reserve our tickets ahead of time.”
But Stefani is also sad to see MoviePass possibly go. “The original model was so great,” she said, and faulted the service for “making it harder for customers to use their products” by raising prices unexpectedly, or the app glitching when she tried to check into a movie.
But MoviePass itself is staying optimistic, of course. “To paraphrase Mark Twain: Talk of our demise is greatly exaggerated,” MoviePass said in a press release Thursday. And a rep told Moneyish that: “Over the last several days, we’ve begun making the necessary changes to our service that will help us continue to offer our members a high-value, low-cost, in-theater movie experience. These are essential steps to continue providing the most attractive subscription service in the industry. Our community of more than 3 million members has shown an immense amount of enthusiasm over the past year, and we trust that they will continue to share our vision to reinvigorate the movie industry.”
MoviePass members aren’t the only faithful customers coming to terms with the end or near-death of their favorite services. Flailing meal-kit company Blue Apron is also struggling as the company’s shares dropped to a record low in March, including a 20% decrease just this Thursday, making a lot of hungry subscribers nervous that the end is near as consumer growth rate has slowed over the past year. Meanwhile, Birchbox’s $10-a-month beauty subscription service has also made unpopular changes to stay in business, such as limiting its store credit for sample reviews, forcing some angry customers to cancel their subscriptions.
And many MoviePass members are bracing for a return to market-rate movie tickets. In 2017, the average movie ticket price at Regal movie theaters, the largest movie theater circuit in the United States, was $10.20. With MoviePass’s monthly flat-rate costs, users were able to save money even if they saw just two movies in a month.
So what should members do? “It’s a good idea to try to use as much of the service as you can beforehand, especially if you enjoy the service and are getting your money’s worth,” Bola Onada Sokunbi, financial education instructor and CEO of Clever Girl Finance, told Moneyish. “However, if you are not, you might want to cut your losses early and cancel it to save whatever you can before the service is completely discontinued.”
If users don’t know whether to stay or go, she suggests thinking about where else that money can go. “One thing to consider is, do you need to use the service at all, or are you taking full advantage of it? Because if you are not, then it makes more sense to repurpose the funds towards something else in your budget, like saving, investing or paying off debt,” said Sokunbi.
“If you are not getting value why keep it? This applies to any service you pay for regardless of whether the company is going under or not,” she added. Use this MoviePass reckoning as an excuse to audit all of your subscriptions. “Make a list of all the services you are considering and then ask yourself, will you use them or can you get them for free or cheaper? And very importantly, does it fit into your budget? This will help you make the best decision,” she said.
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