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What Is MoviePass? The Pros and Cons of $10-a-Month Unlimited Films

Want to see a lot of movies in the theater for almost no money? You are not alone. MoviePass, for one, was caught off-guard by the groundswell of enthusiasm for the prospect on Tuesday when potential customers caused its website and app to crash, shortly after a new payment structure and owner was announced.

The deal, put simply, goes like this: For a $9.95 monthly fee, you have the option to see up to one movie in theaters per day, every day. We’ll cover the nitty-gritty below, but that’s the gist of the service.

The company, run by Netflix co-founder and former Redbox president Mitch Lowe, wants to be a major disrupter in the industry — think, well, Netflix. But since it was launched in 2011, the service hasn’t gained much traction and remains under-used. MoviePass is hoping this new deal changes that.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using MoviePass as told by people who have tried the service and stopped, and others who swear by it:

Advantage: It’s actually a great deal

Ticket prices for movies are only rising. And, until Tuesday’s announcement, MoviePass offered essentially the same plan as it does now, but for $50 per month. For true film lovers, that’s still a steal. Now, you only need to watch two movies per month to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth (only one, if you live in a major metropolis).

Drawback: No 3D or Imax

The MoviePass system does not extend to special formats like 3D or Imax. If you’re a hardcore Christopher Nolan fan, you’ll still have to shell out to see “Dunkirk” how it was meant to be seen. 

Advantage: No blackout dates

The service is available for use every day of the year. As long as there are tickets available, one of them can be yours.

Drawback: Must buy onsite

Were you one of those people who bought “Force Awakens” tickets weeks in advance? That’s not really an option with MoviePass. To select a showtime, you have to check in on the app, which only works within 100 yards of the location. That makes it tough to buy ahead of time, so that midnight premiere might have to come out of pocket.

Advantage: Available at most theaters, even indies 

MoviePass says it’s available in over 91% of all theaters in the U.S. That extends to big chains including AMC, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark, but also smaller houses like the IFC in New York and Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly for Angelenos. However, some pushback may be coming — later Tuesday, AMC released a statement objecting to the deep discount.

Drawback: No premium theaters like the ArcLight or Landmark

If you’re one of those people who need a screen consultant on hand just in case you’re unhappy with the quality of the image, you might be out of luck. Among that small percentage of theaters that aren’t in on the deal are … well, let’s just say exactly the chains you would expect.

Advantage: Your conscience is clean

The company reports that it works by buying movie theater tickets for its subscribers directly from exhibitors at whatever price they offer. That means that MoviePass is operating at a loss, and playing the long game.  Sure, most movie theater owners would rather you buy their own loyalty programs. But if you balked at the idea for fear of ripping off your local indie picture house, feel free to proceed sans guilt.

Drawback: Solo ticket buyers only

MoviePass works best for loners. Since you are only able to buy your own ticket, if you like seeing movies in large groups (and want to sit together), it isn’t especially useful. Even two MoviePass users can’t buy tickets in one order. At least for now, it’s single tickets only. Which could make a date to the movies a little less romantic.

Advantage: Track your progress

The app keeps track of the movies you watched and when you watched them. That makes it easy to recall all your terrible choices, and think how easy it would be to write your end-of-year lists!

Drawback: The app can be buggy

Since it requires your phone to use location services, it can freeze if the reception at the theater is bad. It will probably only be a minor nuisance, but it’s something to consider.

Bonus: A magic debit card

Maybe you’re not easily amused by technological advances. But when you sign up for MoviePass you are mailed a debit card. When you purchase your movie ticket at the theater, your personal card is automatically loaded with the precise amount that you need to buy your ticket. Come on, admit it — that’s pretty cool.

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