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

Cinema, auditorium, rows of seatsVARIOUS

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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  1. Ted says:

    How do you cancel program if your not satisfied?

  2. Rachel says:

    Does anyone know what MoviePass considers a day? Do they go by calendar day or by 24 hour periods? For example if I see a movie with my pass at 9pm tonight would I be able to see another movie at 7pm tomorrow or would I have to wait until 9pm or later full a full 24 hours to have passed?

  3. Paul says:

    Do you earn frequent movie credits (e.g. Regal Crown Club)? Seems like you should since you are paying with movie pass debit card.

  4. Tracey Fulton says:

    Would love to purchase a pass for my mother but she doesn’t have a smartphone? Anyway around this ?

  5. Zoe Schmidt says:

    Sinemia.com is way better! Moviepass is okay if fly solo and go to 2D movies everytime. My plan is $19 but includes 3D & IMAX and reserved seating in advance. For the price it’s worth it.

    • Jordan says:

      In my area, the best option for Sinemia is for 3 movies a month. There is no every day of the month plan like with Movie pass.

  6. Jojo Lane says:

    People have mentioned various dealbreakers:

    1. Not knowing if your theater participates. Actually, if you search for it, someone on the internet has compiled a list of MoviePass compatible theaters by zip code.

    2. Single ticket per user, per day. Not a huge deal. Just buy them at the same time. For instance, if I’m going with my sweetie, and want assigned seats, we’ll coordinate it and hit the buy button at the same time. A very minor inconvenience for the price, no?

    3. Can’t use at reserved seat theaters. Yes you can! These theaters only don’t allow you to buy single seats if you’ve picked one that blocks out someone else. But if you get it next to where someone else is sitting or to an edge, you should be fine. So, again, you and your companion can pick the individual seats you need. Not a problem.

    Want to know what the true dealbreaker is? For me, anyway?

    The 100 yard rule….you have to be right outside your theater to buy. Unfortunately, the only theaters we really love to attend are roughly 20 minutes away. We love them for various reasons – assigned seating, lazy boy chairs that allow you to prop your feet up, better food including beer & wine, etc.

    Honestly, it would be a dealbreaker to have to drive a total of 40 minutes (with no traffic!) just to buy tickets through MoviePass. And buying from assigned seating theaters an hour or so in advance usually means they’ll be all or mostly gone.

    For me, the ideal would be to be able to purchase my ticket as I usually do at the theater I like best, without having to do a long, special trip beforehand just to get the ticket every time, which would defeat the purpose of a MoviePass subscription. I’m not going to take time out of my busy day to drive out for movie tickets and back….and going last minute to be within the 100 yards (or being forced to go several hours in advance because of it) kind of defeats the purpose of assigned seating.

    No thanks.

  7. Lyndsey Orourke says:

    The two things killing it for me: 1) I cannot see participating theatres in my area before I buy. 2) Not being able to buy a membership for a family. I would have no problem paying $40 a month so that all 4 of us could go, but only being able to buy 1 ticket at a time, and not being able to sit together guaranteed with our theatres reserved seating, that just isn’t practical even if it it cheaper.

  8. Jules says:

    1. You have to buy before you get to see IF your theater participates.
    2. Membership does not guarantee a ticket on the day you want to see a movie.
    3. AMC is considering opting out.
    4. Great way to get $9.95 from hundreds of millions of subscribers before you go belly up.
    Like most memberships they are betting you don’t go see a movie everyday, just like gym memberships.

  9. Samantha says:

    can you get more than one ticket per movie? I have 3 minor children, do I need to have 4 separate accounts for the 4 of us?

  10. Corrine Scott says:

    What a great idea! I love it… Now if I can only find the app!

  11. Becky says:

    Eager to try it out. Now days if you can afford a ticket you can’t afford the refreshment counter. The price of the popcorn and soda for two was $21.00 yesterday and we didn’t even purchase the large size. How can families in lower to medium income afford today’s ticket prices?

  12. Alvin Sankar says:

    The single ticket only communal killing is possible. Many theaters with Reserved Seating don’t let you choose certain single seats when purchasing at a kiosk. Understandably. The work around is buy your tickets at the box office and tell the agent you would like to be seated together though you’re paying with different cards/payment types. I did it all the time when I used MP and went with my girlfriend and my kids.

  13. cdaddy5588 says:

    What I don’t understand is if the movie goer is coming in to see a movie more often then they are more likely to purchase more from the concessions and thus the theater makes more money? Why is AMC complaining?

  14. thomthom says:

    Disadvantage: Won’t know what movie theaters in your area are accepting moviepass without paying lol

  15. PFL says:

    AMC and several other stogie monopolies do not understand the subscription model fly wheel. The bigg worry is the hyper-user. Their is no demographic matrix for this type of user unless they purposefully camp out or live within 100 years of a theater.. But is the hyper-user really an awesome Social media promoter? Theater chains have nothing to worry about they are paid the full ticket price and MoviePass it is just another payment option and a debit card is issued for use. What it does provide is access to Bitcoin users and future crypt-currency. Beside if MoviePass goes under then AMC can purchase it…

  16. Nettrick Nowan says:

    We saw Wind River last weekend, but my girlfriend is not going to see Annabelle. Conversely, I’m not going to see The Glass Castle. Definitely a service I can use and at $10 a pop, it’s kind of a no brainer for me. And regarding that communal experience referred to above, mine have consistently been peppered with other moviegoers talking, on their phones or calming their younger kids (who probably shouldn’t be seeing this movie any way). If I don’t have the luxury of watching first run movies at home, I’d at least appreciate spending a minimal amount to watch movies with these noisemakers that go typically go unchallenged by theater staff.

  17. John says:

    This is is fantastic idea & I would do this at once, if it would be available in my country.
    It’s like Netflix for theaters.

    We got this summer something similar at our multiplex: Watch 5 films (no 3D, no IMAX) at any time and only pay $ 30. That’s a good deal and I bought it. But it was limited for 8 weeks.

    Now imagine all cinemas would work together and offer a ‘flat rate’ for movie lovers in one country.
    That would save costs because you need less people counting your cash.

    I would love to go more often to the cinema, but the costs are simply too high sometimes…

  18. Frank says:

    Hey that’s great. What great idea a free movie ticket and a vacation to Hawaii.

  19. Seriously? Only a single ticket may be purchased at a time? That is the deal killer right there. Going to the movies is supposed to be a COMMUNAL EXPERIENCE! It is THE distinguishing characteristic that the theater owners have been pushing and touting ad nauseam. It’s why going to the movies instead of staying home to watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes or a DVD is supposed to be better. You do it with someone and not alone.

    But, by not allowing more than a single ticket to be purchased at a time- by not allowing movie patrons the option to sit next to each other- since more theater chains are adopting the reserved seat functionality as a means of setting themselves apart from other chains, this single ticket restriction is totally counter intuitive and will ultimately be the kryptonite that destroys the chances of this otherwise killer app from really catching on. The % of people (at any age) going to the movies solo is too low and the idea of sitting apart is too much for it to appeal to cost-savings conscious couples. Either the very young (12-18 year olds) or the very old (widowed 68 y/o and older) might jump at the chance to go on their own for less. But even then, most teens want to sit in a group, not on their own, scattered around the theater. Not changing this one rule of single tickets sales only, will curb the appeal to the majority of ticket buyers… otherwise couples, families and other friendly pairs will continue to eschew going to the movies and stay home, watch a movie on demand or via OTT or DVD and save the $9.99 for their pizza man, which last I checked was still something you COULD do with someone else and not have to eat alone. Besides, isn’t sitting in a movie theater alone considered “creepy”? According to several articles I saw while researching this topic claimed it was. Thoughts?

    • malloryjfrost says:

      23 year old, female here. I go to movies by myself a lot! With my work and school schedule it’s harder for me to see a film with my family or friends. I don’t see how its creepy to want to see a movie on the big screen by yourself. It’s actually quite liberating and peaceful!

    • Eric Woodard says:

      Furthermore, this is exciting news to me. I will definitely take advantage.., but it serves as hope that civil gathering may become more commonplace with the shared economy. It’s interesting no doubt.

      • Tommy says:

        It’s not a communal experience for me. I see movies in theatres because it’s how they’re meant to be seen … not on a small tv screen at home . I’m not there to talk with other people .

    • Eric Woodard says:

      My thought is the idea behind a theater isn’t to necessarily meet with your existing friends, but rather share an experience with a wholly new audience. It serves both purposes equally nicely in a civilized society such as ours.

    • Anna says:

      Buy the first ticket, the person with you then buys theirs. Or online, you both do it and pick seats beside each other. No one picks a seat directly beside a stranger anyway, it’s not going to be snatched up.

    • Jen says:

      My boyfriend and I each have an account. We buy same time and have never had an issue with seating. MoviePass is great.

    • Kilbert says:

      Buy your ticket. Log out. Buy the other ticket. Done. Movie date.

    • JG says:

      How does “not allowing more than a single ticket to be purchased at a time” equate to “not allowing patrons to sit next to each other?”

    • Francis says:

      How can a movie be a communal experience if you’re not supposed to talk during the movie? Are you one of those rude people in the theater trying to have a “communal” experience at the expense of everyone else trying to listen to the actual movie?

  20. IDK, I only go to the movie “occasionally”, actually, I only went once this year (Wonderwoman) and one last year (The Force Awakens). With this said, Cinemark has discount Tuesdays, $6.25.

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