Here is an incomplete list of movies I’ve seen in 2018 using MoviePass: The Insult, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Red Sparrow, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Foxtrot, Sweet Country, The Rider, Lean on Pete, First Reformed, Ocean’s 8, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Gotti, Nancy, American Animals, Three Identical Strangers, Damsel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Hotel Transylvania 3.
I will be the first to admit that, a lot of those movies? Not good! But that’s one of the reasons why I subscribe to MoviePass, the movie ticket service that has up-ended the film industry: it removes the guilt — that feeling of, don’t I have something better to do? (I don’t) — from paying $12 for a potentially crappy movie. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to enjoy A Wrinkle in Time (I was right!), but I like watching movies in a theater, and all it cost me was my $10 monthly fee… which had already been covered by the first movie I saw in March. And the humiliation of having to say, “One adult for A Wrinkle in Time, please.”
But I’ve also used MoviePass for a lot of lesser-known movies that I might not have otherwise seen because I didn’t want to take an expensive (relatively speaking) risk. Take Nancy, for instance. All I knew about the film was that it was getting solid-if-unspectacular reviews and that it stars Steve Buscemi and the mom from Rectify. On an otherwise uneventful Saturday afternoon, I killed two hours, and liked it! Will it be on my top-10 list for the year? No, but it’s the kind of three-out-of-five-star movie that, with MoviePass, I’m glad I saw, but without MoviePass, I might have been perturbed that I didn’t like it more. I’ve learned to appreciate the “that was fine” movie since signing up. (There are other films, like Sweet Country, that I would have missed, but ended up loving.)
Now, do I think MoviePass is perfect? Lol, no. The app is glitchy, the “photo of your ticket” requirement is annoying, and peak pricing, where “subscribers may be asked to pay a small additional fee depending on the level of demand,” is the first time I’ve been actively upset at the service. (I had to pay an extra four bucks to see Hotel Transylvania 3, despite the theater being one-fourth full. It would be one thing if the additional payment went to the disinterested teenagers who work there, but it’s straight profit for MoviePass for doing nothing, the app’s version of the “resort fee” at a Las Vegas hotel.) Overall, though, I want MoviePass to succeed, but that’s looking increasingly less and less likely.
A recent story from The Hollywood Reporter:
Wall Street appears to have signaled the death knell for MoviePass, the popular subscription service that gives as many as 30 tickets a month to movie theaters for the price of one. Shares of MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics slid an astonishing 56 percent on Thursday to just a dime apiece. The stock is now down a remarkable 99 percent in a matter of weeks.
And another from USA Today:
MoviePass experienced a temporary service outage Thursday night and for some users, the app continues to have functionality problems on Friday. Why? The company ran out of cash. MoviePass reported in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday that it borrowed $5 million to pay it’s “merchant and fulfillment processors” to correct the service interruption.
Many of the summer’s biggest titles, including Mission: Impossible — Fallout and Christopher Robin, are currently unavailable on the service because, as CEO Mitch Lowe wrote in a statement, “As we continue to evolve the service, certain movies may not always be available in every theater on our platform. This is no different than other in-home streaming options that often don’t carry the latest shows or movies that may be available on other services.” The monthly plan is increasing from $9.99 to $14.99, access to customer support might be “limited” in the coming weeks, and surge pricing is up to eight dollars. But! There is still some benefit in sticking with MoviePass (assuming you haven’t already fled for AMC Stubs A-List or the poorly-named Sinemia).
1. Ignore the blockbusters in favor of indies
A look at my local AMC theaters has peak pricing for nearly every major studio movie: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Skyscraper, The Equalizer 2, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, etc. But the indies, including Eighth Grade (the best movie of 2018, imho) and Sorry to Bother You, are often exempt from the excessive surcharge. Take a chance on something you might otherwise bypass, like Generation Wealth (based on anecdotal evidence, MoviePass has been a boon for documentaries), Never Goin’ Back, or Leave No Trace.
2. Look to the revival/art houses, too
There are two theaters here in Austin, Texas, where I reside, that primarily play older films: the Paramount Theatre and AFS Cinema, and they both accept MoviePass. This week alone, I could see The Nightmare Before Christmas, Moulin Rogue!, Rififi (Elizabeth from The Americans is interested), Stalker, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and Yellow Submarine on the big screen. Check to see if you have repertory theaters near you, too. It beats watching Lawrence of Arabia on your iPhone.
3. Be patient
One of the most recent (and aggravating) tweaks is that any film that debuts on more 1,000 screens will be blacked out for the first two weeks of release. That’s… most movies. But if you’re someone who doesn’t mind waiting to see Mission: Impossible — Fallout until after the hype has settled down, or enjoys the sticky floors of the second-run theater, MoviePass is still a solid option.
4. Donate $100 million to MoviePass
That would solve everyone’s problems, eccentric millionaire. Thank you.