Update, 3/17/23: In the words of Michael Scott, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, strike three.” Using the new MoviePass began as bliss and quickly unraveled into a nightmare, a near shot-for-shot remake of their 2018 rise and fall. Using — or rather, trying to use — MoviePass for six weeks has been a series of unending problems, ranging from app troubleshooting and impossible customer service (disappointing) to mysterious repeated charges and immediate transaction reversals on my account (unacceptable).
As I stressed in my initial thoughts below, the return of MoviePass is still in beta mode before its official launch this summer. Growing pains are to be expected, but the issues I’ve faced aren’t occasional. They’re ongoing, each wildly different from the last, with queries to an unresponsive support team left unanswered until I finally canceled my subscription.
I wanted a win for MoviePass. They changed the game back in the day. I’m sad to report the revamped version only left me frustrated again. I probably would have tried to hold on longer if not for the bizarre repeated charges. For the new MoviePass to be successful, it will need to simplify its onboarding communication, vastly improve its near-nonexistent customer service, and not give members reasons to question financial activity. Keep reading for my initial impressions from a few weeks ago and the overall gist of how the new service’s operations compare to the old.
MoviePass has risen from the grave. The movie ticket subscription service was extremely popular while it lasted, but whether or not the new MoviePass will succeed remains to be seen.
The movie theater subscription service has relaunched in beta mode with significant changes to its formerly failed system. Here’s a peek at what’s different, what it’s like to use the new MoviePass system, and if it’s worth it.
The Heyday of MoviePass
Many film fans have fond memories of a glorious season in history: “that one MoviePass spring.” Ah, it was bliss. MoviePass first launched nationally in 2012, but the service gained steam in 2018. For around $10 a month, moviegoers paid for a physical card called a MoviePass. Want to see a movie in a theater? Just use your MoviePass at checkout, and voila. At its height, the system had almost no limitations and members could see one movie a day. For around $10, it was worth it even if you only used it once each month. It was movie heaven — but it didn’t last long.
As MoviePass’s popularity gained, the service introduced a seemingly unending series of rules. The subscription raised its price. There were more parameters around how users could and couldn’t use their MoviePass. The app experienced unexpected outages. As quickly as it rose to meteoric iconicity, MoviePass dramatically lost favor with its clientele. Eventually, in early 2020, its parent company filed for bankruptcy.
It wasn’t all for naught. In the wake of MoviePass, several huge theater chains introduced subscriptions of their own, from AMC A-List to Regal Unlimited.
But now the one that started it all is back, and maybe for good (fingers crossed). The new MoviePass is different, and hopefully it’s more sustainable as a business, but it also has its fair share of pros and cons.
Introducing the New MoviePass
MoviePass returned in fall 2022 to a select few cities (patrons in other areas could sign up for a waitlist). In early 2023, the service expanded, still in beta mode but available to anyone on the waitlist. At the time of this writing, MoviePass is only available to prospective members who signed up for that waitlist in 2022, but it also promises ten friend invites to new members.
The Ins and Outs of the New MoviePass
The basic premise remains the same: pay a fixed price for a monthly membership valid for movie ticket purchases. The new MoviePass is good at almost all theaters. In my area, every local AMC, Regal, and Cinemark location accepts MoviePass, and the only theater that doesn’t is an independent establishment.
Members can choose from three different tiers of MoviePass subscriptions: Basic ($10 per month), Standard ($20), or Premium ($30), with each tier granting a different number of credits. MoviePass says during beta mode, the specific number of credits in each tier varies based on where the user lives. For me, the Standard subscription gave me 72 credits for the month, but credits roll over for up to two months if I don’t use them right away.
Each movie generally “costs” 10-15 credits, based on day of the week and time of day (the specific number may vary for different users). Only standard-format screenings are eligible for MoviePass, meaning not 3D, IMAX, etc.; however, MoviePass does say that eligibility will expand beyond standard-format screenings in the future.
The Biggest Flaw of the New MoviePass
MoviePass members must buy their ticket using their MoviePass card physically in-person at the theater on the day of their screening. This means no advanced seats, so moviegoers are at the mercy of whatever seats are available when they show up.
This was also true of the old MoviePass system, but back then, more theaters offered general admission, so going to the movies was a more casual, spontaneous outing. Today, most theaters have reserved seats and more moviegoers are in the habit of planning their visit in advance.
The first time I used the new MoviePass for a matinee on a Tuesday afternoon (and for a movie that had been out awhile). Because of that, seating availability just before showtime wasn’t a problem, but for big opening nights, seating would be a challenge — especially with a big group. Imagine showing up for a big opening night of a Marvel movie without reserving your seats in advance. There might not be any seats left, let alone enough seats together for your whole family.
There are a few work-arounds for this challenge. You could always swing by the theater earlier in the day and grab your tickets a few hours before showtime (or perhaps before eating dinner nearby) for a better chance at availability. You could also find a local eligible theater that still has general admission (aka no reserved seats). That way, as long as you have a ticket, everyone shows up and seats themselves in first-come, first-served, old-school style.
Getting the Most Out of Your New MoviePass
MoviePass is the best value for people who go the movies often. If that’s you, there are a few ways to get the most out of the service.
I played around in the app after seeing a movie with my MoviePass earlier this week. If I wanted to, it seemed like I could see another movie on the same day — even the same movie again (you know how those “Avengers” weekends are). This is an improvement over their old system. Again, I had to be present at the theater to make the reservation, but it seemed like it would let me do that. I didn’t try to reserve more than one movie in one day before my screening, so I’m not sure if it lets you hold more than one reservation at a time, or if you can only reserve your second movie after you’ve seen your first.
I was also able to add my receipt to earn loyalty points in the theater’s app (in my case Regal). I assume the same is true for AMC or Cinemark. That’s a big plus because the movie I saw cost 10 MoviePass points, but in the theater’s eyes, I still got the amount of loyalty rewards as if I had paid $11 for my ticket. If you go to the movies often and add every receipt to the theater’s app, you’re looking at a lot of rewards for the value of your MoviePass subscription. Given the subscription’s day-of, in-person policy for purchasing tickets, a potential strategy might be to rack up enough loyalty points to pay for admission to popular screenings (like opening nights or weekend evenings), which may be difficult to get with your MoviePass.
Is the New MoviePass for You?
The new MoviePass is great for the person who:
- Goes to the movies frequently
- Is patient enough to wait until a movie has been out for a few days before seeing it
- Doesn’t mind seeing movies at less-popular times, like weekdays or afternoons
- Lives near a local theater that offers general admission (not reserved) seating
- Is okay going to the movies by themselves
- Has other friends who use MoviePass
The new MoviePass is probably not for the person who:
- Only goes to the movies occasionally
- Wants to see new movies on opening day
- Usually goes to the movies on weekends or at night
- Would never go to a movie by themselves
- Doesn’t know anyone else with a MoviePass
Still in Beta Mode
MoviePass is quick to stress it’s still in beta mode, so any specific protocol I’ve described could change.
MoviePass will need to walk a delicate balance if it wants to sustain its business while maintaining customer satisfaction. In 2018, the continuously-changing rules spelled the beginning of the end. Returning customers will feel déjà vu if they’re promised an amazing subscription that’s hard to use and constantly changes its policies. In this way, it’s a bit akin to Genie+, Walt Disney World’s ever-changing service that guests use to skip the lines of popular attractions.
Right out of the gate, I do see a few kinks that I hope are corrected. For example, my credits didn’t decrease after successfully using my MoviePass to see a film. My balance still says 72 credits, the same as what I started with. MoviePass also hasn’t sent me the ten friend invites they promised for new members. These are small hiccups and hopefully are easily fixable on their end.
However, something else was more noticeable (and more frustrating). Upon joining, I struggled to find the rules for the new credit system. MoviePass didn’t explain anything in the welcome email, its app, nor the letter it mailed to my home address. I had to Google the information and finally found it in the depths of their website. Introducing a semi-complicated system but not explaining it to the paying customer is… a choice. Even with an emphasis on beta mode, this unfortunately felt characteristic of MoviePass’s earlier flaws, and certainly didn’t make a great first impression for their new era.
The Verdict (For Now)
I am genuinely rooting for MoviePass. More people seeing more movies is fantastic. In its current form, I love the flexibility of locations the new service offers, so if I plan a movie outing with friends, it doesn’t matter where the theater is or what chain it belongs to, which is obviously a limitation for members of AMC A-List or Regal Unlimited. When I previously used either of these services, I was always the person requesting we could go where my subscription was active, but with MoviePass, I can go pretty much anywhere.
On the other hand, the flexibility of location could be irrelevant if I have to wait until the day-of to purchase my ticket. Showing up a few minutes before showtime with even a small number of people is a non-starter in many situations, and if you typically go to the movies during prime hours, the day-of purchase policy is the biggest flaw. While there are work-arounds, it may not be worth the trouble (especially when both AMC and Regal offer comparable subscription services of their own).
I see a ton of movies, both for work and for entertainment. I’m willing to give the new MoviePass a try, for at least a few months. For me, it “pays for itself,” even if I’ll have to occasionally pay out-of-pocket for a more popular screening, but for other people, that might be a dealbreaker and render the service useless.
At this point, the day-of seating rule and the company’s poor communication are the biggest areas of improvement that (if not fixed or changed), could sway my decision long-term. The value of the new MoviePass is largely subjective, but at this point, I’m cautiously optimistic about its future. “Ready when you are, CB!”
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