MoviePass: The noble, crazy experiment.

moviepass

The events over the last few days have been sad, but inspiring. This morning, I cancelled Movie Pass. Last night, I started up AMC’s A List. In the grand scheme of first world problems, this does not rank too high. In the minds of people who grew up loving the idea of a night at the movies but reality of high prices kept them at home, it has been a nice beginning.

The reality of better, affordable other options have taken their toll on the television and movie industry. More people watch other things now. We can watch original content on devices everywhere. Netflix on the train, Amazon Prime on the Bus. Waiting at the DMV is easier when you can watch a movie on any of the Movies Anywhere options available for portable devices. At the point we’ve gotten to debating as to whether to watch a movie on Friday or Saturday night, we’ve already seen more than enough during the week and find cheaper things to do instead of paying exorbitant prices.

Theaters have gotten better. The chairs are more comfortable. Many can pick out their own seats ahead of time. They’ve tried to make the destination worthy of the price outside of the occasional blockbuster. Still, it isn’t enough on its own.

Movie Pass started out with a reasonable idea. For up to $45 per month, one could watch as many films in theaters as they could watch. The numbers, according to various reports, had attendance up over 111% in 2016. Then they lowered prices, changed terms, lowered prices again.

Now you got to watch a movie a day, for about $10 a month. By March, they lowered it to $6.95 with a bunch of weird restrictions. The numbers of subscriptions ballooned to the millions.

Throughout the changes, one thing remained constant. If you got customer service from the company, you were lucky. The main communication had to occur through a phone app or asking questions through social media. Many, many people stopped at the door during this time as the company struggled to meet demand.

Then, in the last few months, we began to hear more and more the corporation was hemorrhaging in debt. No one was real surprised when they took away that option, limiting it to 4 movies and no repeats. Then they gave back the former option. Now we got a movie a day, with no repeats. Which means most people wouldn’t watch more than 4 a month anyway, likely. Then came surge pricing for “some” films, with the prospects of special screenings (3D, Imax, additional tickets promised for later).  Oooh boy?

We had two month to month passes and one yearly pass. Then Thursday hit, and it seemed kind of weird that most of the showings of major releases, even those out more than one week were being assessed the surcharge in one form or another. Friday, the truth was revealed. They had to borrow more money than most of us will see in our lives just to make it through the first week in August.

The surcharges are everywhere now. The big hit this movie is unavailable. This is all driven by the creditors, by now. They need assurances that Movie Pass can pay their bills with their stock prices going underground.

Well, it was good while it lasted. This bold gamble by people who saw a need and tried their best to fulfill it appears to be on its last legs. The idea was fought by chains like AMC. But we know that Blockbuster fought Netflix until they started stumbling and Redbox put the nail in the coffin. Movie Pass fired a necessary shot that spurred change. AMC A List is the first evidence that they had a good idea. Hopefully the success of AMC will spur more theaters to follow suit. If enough people follow that path, hopefully, we should see better movie options in the future. I know I will continue to look for options to just paying for one movie at a time, or just go somewhere else. I have faith in the system, though.

Pandora’s box has been opened, even if the folks who opened it didn’t know how to sustain the business model. The beauty of capitalism is they had their chance exposed a demand for a better way to enjoy a night on the town. Now others will compete to fill that need in a way in which everyone will get something better than they had before. I am glad to spend my dollars as smartly as possible, in order to make sure that happens. Theaters will change, or we will start a new paradigm of our life minus movies at the theater.

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