MoviePass is no longer too good to be true

I’ve had MoviePass since September, right after the company dropped the price of its one-movie-per-day subscription to the too-good-to-be-true cost of $10 a month. Since then, dozens of friends, colleagues, and even random strangers I’ve run into at movie theaters have asked if it’s really a good deal, and if they should sign up. My answer has always been yes, because for the right kind of moviegoer, the service offers a tremendous value.

I’ve always known that the free ride wouldn’t last forever, though. The company’s business model, which has MoviePass losing money on pretty much every ticket sold, seems too unsustainable. Two changes the company has begun toying with recently make it appear MoviePass is readying to gut the core value of the service. In other words, the moment when MoviePass stops being worth it is feeling closer than ever.

We learned earlier this week that for new subscribers, MoviePass is no longer allowing customers to see one movie per day. Instead, the $9.95 subscription will allow customers to purchase only four tickets per month, with MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe admitting that he doesn’t know if the “unlimited” plan will ever return. To help ease the blow, MoviePass is throwing in a three-month trial of iHeartRadio’s All Access subscription, though it’s not exactly clear why a three-month trial for an audio service is supposed to be a decent stand-in for movie tickets. The new plan also bills customers quarterly, so you have to pay for MoviePass in three-month chunks. That’s a far cry from the annual plan I switched over to back in November of last year, when I paid $89.95 upfront — or just $7.50 a month — for a full year of MoviePass’ unlimited access plan. That plan is no longer available, either.

The other change is a modification to the company’s terms of service that prohibits MoviePass customers from buying tickets to “select” movies more than once. We’ve reached out to MoviePass for further comment, but a support ticket explaining the change justifies it by saying, “We hope this will encourage you to see new movies and enjoy something different!” That’s an even more distasteful change, because the company is offering zero guidance or transparency about what films will be impacted. What has made MoviePass great for consumers is the ability to see films whenever you like, knowing that if your friends want to see something in the future, you can always go a second time. For tentpole blockbusters — movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Black Panther, or The Avengers: Infinity War repeat viewings are a cornerstone of the fan experience. MoviePass used to enable that. Now, the service is asking for three months of subscription fees upfront, with no guarantee that a given movie won’t be impacted by its latest, unannounced change.

MoviePass has used these kind of bait-and-switch tactics before, usually as part of selective market tests as a way to see what its subscriber base is willing to put up with. We’ve seen the company play hardball with AMC by blacklisting popular theaters in major markets like New York City, and play fast and loose with math in order to inflate the amount of revenue it drives in ticket sales. Some of the moves have been ways to bring major theater chains to the bargaining table, in MoviePass’ bid for a possible cut on concessions or ticket sales.

We’ve also seen the company cut deals with smaller studios to promote movies like I, Tonya and Death Wish, while simultaneously prohibiting MoviePass customers from buying tickets to competing movies. That test seemed to be designed to show how MoviePass could direct audiences toward the movies it was being paid to promote. But as is the case with almost all of MoviePass’ tactics, it’s the company’s paying subscribers that are left in the dark, as the basic value of their subscription is undermined or stripped out without any notification or explanation.

On the business side, all of these tests seem designed to cut corners, save cash, and determine how little the company can get away with offering while it tries to figure out a more sustainable business model. For a while, the working assumption was that MoviePass would monetize its users’ viewing habits, and Lowe has said the grand plan is to cut deals with restaurants, bars, and other services to create a holistic, all-in-one night out that starts when a person leaves their home.

But Lowe’s admission that MoviePass would track user location data to do so kicked up a privacy controversy, and MoviePass has since disabled the mobile app’s location-tracking ability, which it says it never used. An independent auditor compounded the issues earlier this month when it said it had “substantial doubt” about the ability of MoviePass’ parent company to stay in business in the face of the service’s ongoing losses.

But those concerns are ultimately inside baseball for the average moviegoer. The only thing that matters for potential consumers is whether MoviePass as a service is worth the cost — and all the corner-cutting, tests, and secret changes have undermined the core service to the point where it’s almost not worth the trouble. Over the last seven and a half months, I’ve seen 25 films through MoviePass, for an average of around 3 films per month. I’ve had some repeat viewings here and there — the new Star Wars and Bladerunner 2049, to name a couple — and I’ve fortunately not run into any of the above-mentioned issues. Not yet, at least.

But there was a moment last night when I went to see Avengers: Infinity War at my local AMC theater, and I couldn’t find the venue on the app. I jumped into the movie selection portion of the app to see if it showed up there; still nothing. For a moment, I wondered if my theater was subject to yet another MoviePass blackout, for reasons that would never be honestly explained to me as a paying customer.

Thankfully, when I zoomed into the map I finally found the theater, and was able to use the subscription plan I’d already paid a year upfront for. Yet the anxiety of that moment — of knowing that the ease and freedom I get from the service could likely be taken away at any moment — does make me rethink what I’ll tell people about MoviePass. The time of it being too good to be true has already passed. Now, the question is how long will MoviePass survive in its current state, and what changes will its customers have to put up with next?

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Table of Contents

  1. Definitions used in this Policy
  2. Data protection principles we follow
  3. What rights do you have regarding your Personal Data
  4. What Personal Data we gather about you
  5. How we use your Personal Data
  6. Who else has access to your Personal Data
  7. How we secure your data
  8. Information about cookies
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Personal Data – any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.
Processing – any operation or set of operations which is performed on Personal Data or on sets of Personal Data.
Data subject – a natural person whose Personal Data is being Processed.
Child – a natural person under 16 years of age.
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2.Data Protection Principles

We promise to follow the following data protection principles:

  • Processing is lawful, fair, transparent. Our Processing activities have lawful grounds. We always consider your rights before Processing Personal Data. We will provide you information regarding Processing upon request.
  • Processing is limited to the purpose. Our Processing activities fit the purpose for which Personal Data was gathered.
  • Processing is done with minimal data. We only gather and Process the minimal amount of Personal Data required for any purpose.
  • Processing is limited with a time period. We will not store your personal data for longer than needed.
  • We will do our best to ensure the accuracy of data.
  • We will do our best to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of data.

3.Data Subject’s rights

The Data Subject has the following rights:

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  3. Right to rectification – meaning you have the right to request rectification or erasure of your Personal Data that is inaccurate or incomplete.
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  5. Right to restrict processing – meaning where certain conditions apply, you have the right to restrict the Processing of your Personal Data.
  6. Right to object to processing – meaning in certain cases you have the right to object to Processing of your Personal Data, for example in the case of direct marketing.
  7. Right to object to automated Processing – meaning you have the right to object to automated Processing, including profiling; and not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated Processing. This right you can exercise whenever there is an outcome of the profiling that produces legal effects concerning or significantly affecting you.
  8. Right to data portability – you have the right to obtain your Personal Data in a machine-readable format or if it is feasible, as a direct transfer from one Processor to another.
  9. Right to lodge a complaint – in the event that we refuse your request under the Rights of Access, we will provide you with a reason as to why. If you are not satisfied with the way your request has been handled please contact us.
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Information you have provided us with
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Information from our partners
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Publicly available information
We might gather information about you that is publicly available.

5.How we use your Personal Data

We use your Personal Data in order to:

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We use your Personal Data on legitimate grounds and/or with your Consent.

On the grounds of entering into a contract or fulfilling contractual obligations, we Process your Personal Data for the following purposes:

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On the ground of legitimate interest, we Process your Personal Data for the following purposes:

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As long as you have not informed us otherwise, we consider offering you products/services that are similar or same to your purchasing history/browsing behaviour to be our legitimate interest.

With your consent we Process your Personal Data for the following purposes:

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We Process your Personal Data in order to fulfil obligation rising from law and/or use your Personal Data for options provided by law. We reserve the right to anonymise Personal Data gathered and to use any such data. We will use data outside the scope of this Policy only when it is anonymised. We save your billing information and other information gathered about you for as long as needed for accounting purposes or other obligations deriving from law, but not longer than 1 year.

We might process your Personal Data for additional purposes that are not mentioned here, but are compatible with the original purpose for which the data was gathered. To do this, we will ensure that:

  • the link between purposes, context and nature of Personal Data is suitable for further Processing;
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  • there would be appropriate safeguard for Processing.

We will inform you of any further Processing and purposes.

6.Who else can access your Personal Data

We do not share your Personal Data with strangers. Personal Data about you is in some cases provided to our trusted partners in order to either make providing the service to you possible or to enhance your customer experience. We share your data with:

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Connected third parties:


We only work with Processing partners who are able to ensure adequate level of protection to your Personal Data. We disclose your Personal Data to third parties or public officials when we are legally obliged to do so. We might disclose your Personal Data to third parties if you have consented to it or if there are other legal grounds for it.

7.How we secure your data

We do our best to keep your Personal Data safe. We use safe protocols for communication and transferring data (such as HTTPS). We use anonymising and pseudonymising where suitable. We monitor our systems for possible vulnerabilities and attacks.

Even though we try our best we can not guarantee the security of information. However, we promise to notify suitable authorities of data breaches. We will also notify you if there is a threat to your rights or interests. We will do everything we reasonably can to prevent security breaches and to assist authorities should any breaches occur.

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Last Update: May 25, 2018

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