Comedian Matt Oswalt once said, “so far 2021 is just 2020 with bangs.” Perhaps nothing encapsulates that sentiment more than the possibility that MoviePass, the Icarus of subscription services, may rise again from the ashes.
MoviePass launched in 2017 and offered customers the option to see one movie per day for $9.99 a month. Though popular, considering the amount was less than a single movie ticket in most cities, the price proved to be economically ruinous. In early 2020, Helios and Matheson Analytics, which owned MoviePass, filed for bankruptcy after running out of cash.
On Tuesday, a MoviePass website launched a countdown clock — set to end on Monday, March 22 — and a tagline “the movie is about to start.” (It appears the “MoviePass Ventures” website, which is separate from the company’s original Moviepass.com, was registered anonymously on Feb. 7, 2021.)
What does that portentous message mean? Don’t ask Mitch Lowe, the former CEO of MoviePass.
In an email, Lowe said, “I have no idea. It has nothing to do with me.”
Representatives for MoviePass did not respond to Variety’s request for comment. A rep for former MoviePass chairman Ted Farnsworth said Farnsworth is not connected to the project, either.
Social media accounts for MoviePass have been similarly ambiguous. The brand’s Twitter account has been radio silent since June 30, 2019. Inexplicably, MoviePass’s last tweet was simply captioned “#doppleganger” with a head-exploding emoji and side-by-side pictures of Jeffrey Dean and Javier Bardem, Katy Perry and Zoey Deschanel, Henry Cavill and Matt Bomer, and Zoe Saldana and Thandie Newton.
Direct replies to the 2019 tweet are flooded with angry customers. One Twitter user wrote, “Paid for the annual membership 4 months ago, I want my money back!” Another said, “The app has been down for over 2 weeks and still no update on when we can start watching movies again.”
— MoviePass (@MoviePass) June 30, 2019
Privately, exhibition industry insiders say they have no knowledge of upcoming plans for MoviePass. The announcement comes as movie theaters in Los Angeles and New York City slowly begin to reopen after nearly a year of closures due to the pandemic.
One could argue that MoviePass, in its heyday, flew too close to the sun. But the steal of a monthly deal to watch unlimited movies on the big screen proved to be something of a trailblazer, prompting theater chains like AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark to launch their own rival subscription plans.
MoviePass will eventually be memorialized with a docu-series, executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, chronicling the rise and fall of the ill-fated company. It will be available to watch at home and thus cannot be enjoyed on the big screen with the help of a monthly subscription moviegoing service.
In short, if you own or operate MoviePass, don’t be a stranger.
[Updated on 3/22: The countdown clock expired on Monday with the following message: “This website was made with around $20, with no purpose other than to fool friends. It was tweeted out by a twitter user who we have no affiliation with, and the media picked it up from there. Some articles claimed this was an ‘official MoviePass website’ which was completely fabricated by those journalists.”]