Product Review: MoviePass
While MoviePass suffered from a bungled roll-out with highly problematic customer support, it has undeniable value.
I’ve been a MoviePass member for just under two months now. I just started using the service last week (And, boy, did I!). That’s pretty indicative of the initial roll-out of MoviePass’ new $9.95 pass plan, and I’m sure it turned many potential users off. That would be a shame, as once the wrinkles got ironed out, the service is top notch. If you enjoy going to the movies, or would like to rekindle your love affair with overly buttered popcorn, you should give MoviePass a look.
How It Works
The concept for MoviePass is a little daunting at first, but it becomes second nature after a few uses. Firstly, you have to sign up at their website. Payment for the service is provided up front, and that had me VERY skeptical. Your monthly service doesn’t activate until you physically receive their card, however, so that first month you prepaid isn’t wasted money.
Once you get the card, you must download their app on from Google Play or the I-phone App Store. You then take your phone, MoviePass card, and preferably yourself to the movie theater. Once inside, you go into the app and pick the movie and show time you would like. You click “Check In”, and like Pinocchio, the card becomes a real live boy. Er… a real live credit card. For 30 minutes, your card is an active MasterCard, and you just go to the kiosk or ticket agent and buy your ticket like usual. MoviePass pays the theater full admission price.
The caveats are:
- You can’t see an IMAX or 3-D film. Standard definition only.
- You’re only allowed to see a movie once on them. If you have to leave the movie you are currently watching, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket if you want to see it again.
- Lastly, since you have to physically be in the theater to activate your card, you might get frozen out of very popular movies/show-times. You can’t reserve tickets online, so Opening Night for Star Wars XVIICXVQ might be tough. If you live far away from the nearest theater, driving there just to not be able to get in would be a massive bummer.
That said, the list of theaters they do work with is staggering. Your MoviePass card is a real credit card, and the theater is getting full asking price (just not from you), so they really don’t have a way to block you, short of telling MasterCard that they won’t take their credit cards. To which the CEO of MoviePass replied “If you do that, I’ll just issue everyone Visa passcards instead”. So they got your back. At least now they do.
Does It Work?
The first problem I had with the service was actually getting the damn card. While MoviePass has actually been around since 2014, they only dropped the monthly price this past July. Before then, you had to be a movie maniac to extract any value from their plans. I signed up the day they dropped the price, back in mid July. The card arrived on October 1.
Insult to injury came when they bungled their shipping priorities, and people who signed up well after the first day got their cards FIRST. I told a co-worker about the plan, he signed up two weeks after I did, and he got his card TWO WHOLE WEEKS before I did. That’s insane.
What was worse was their customer service. When the new price rolled out, they wouldn’t let you see what theaters took their pass until you signed up. And even then it was hidden in their app. People had to data mine their app and post the list of theaters on Reddit. Then the major theater chain AMC announced they wouldn’t honor it, and that they might even sue. Paying up-front for a program that you don’t know where to use, and weren’t even sure would exist in a few weeks was a giant leap of faith. Add in the fact that they went radio silent when subscribers began bombarding them for information and I’m shocked they pulled it off.
But they did. Once you get the card, the service works exactly as advertised. They even updated the app to show every theater near you in a clear, easy to understand way. It lists all available movies at said theater as well. The list of theaters around me was varied and wide. Major chains like Cinemagic, local theaters like Patriot Cinema, and even Smitty’s: a theater you can drink at. Nice! Customer support has even improved. According to recent emails they have tripled their support staff to make up for the botched roll-out. They also added a live chat with the staff option, if the theater you are standing in isn’t showing up on the app.
Being an early adopter for this service was a painful, infuriating proposition. Now that the growing pains (their subscriber base went up 250,000 people on the first day with the new price) are over, the service is a fantastic value. If you go to a theater just once a month you’ve made your money back. Combine it with your local cinema’s loyalty/rewards program (it works, I’ve tried), and MoviePass is a steal.
But you don’t have feel like a thief. MoviePass pays the theater full price, so they don’t get hosed. It might even be a boon for theaters; attendance is down due to outrageous ticket prices, and that only hurts the theaters. Hollywood is making boatloads of cash (thanks China), and they don’t give a damn if Ma and Pa lose the drive-in.
So my advice is two fold. Get you a MoviePass before the winter blockbusters arrive, son! And once you get it, buy some jujubes or maybe a popcorn. That is the real profit center for a theater, and since you are saving a butt load (official metric measurement) on tickets, why not splurge for a $6 soda? It will be a win-win.