As the old saying goes, when something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. That’s been a suspicion about MoviePass, the subscription service that lets you see a movie every day for a low monthly fee. But new updates and restrictions may signal trouble ahead for the upstart startup.
MoviePass has been around since 2011, but when it dropped its monthly fee to less that $10 a month last August, its membership skyrocketed to more than two million subscribers.
The company loses money on virtually every subscription — a lot of money, as it pays full ticket price to the theaters for nearly each movie. Investors and subscribers alike wondered how long it could continue.
There may be an answer, as a MoviePass subscription now only allows four movies per month with its $10 plan. The company calls it a temporary promotion, but when the Hollywood Reporter asked CEO Mitch Lowe if the daily ticket subscription would ever return, he replied, “I don’t know.” Lowe claimed that 88 percent of subscribers see fewer than two movies per month, so he says this change only affects a small number of people. “We just always try different things,” he said. “Every time we try a new promotion, we never put a deadline on it.”
Another change that has some moviegoers irked is disallowing repeat viewings of “select” movies. According to The Verge, MoviePass says the policy “encourages you to enjoy something different,” but the movies on the no-repeat list aren’t specified. There have also been reports of users being required to upload photos of their ticket stubs, ostensibly to prevent fraud.
The new offer also packages in a three-month subscription to iHeart Radio All Access, which consumers must actively opt out of or it automatically converts to a $10-per-month subscription of its own.
As the New York Times reports, MoviePass executives are saying nothing to see here, move along, even as an auditor’s report voiced “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” The company has been losing $20 million a month since September.
“I’m not worried about the viability of MoviePass at all,” said Ted Farnsworth of Helios and Matheson Analytics, which owns the vast majority of the company. “Our customer service has dramatically improved, we’ve worked out the little bugs with the technology, and we have plenty of money to get through the next year.”
“We love the idea that everybody thinks that we’re going to fail. It’s exactly what people told us at Netflix and Redbox,” said Lowe. “And then suddenly they all turned around and realized we were too big to stop.”