MoviePass is the ex who routinely texts you long after you think that you were finally done with them. The film ticket subscription platform that once promised users unlimited movies for less than $10 a month is now trying to slither its way into your DMs, promising, pinky swearing, and pleading on hands and knees that this time, things will be different.
Business Insider first reported Monday that MoviePass is going to relaunch in beta this coming Labor Day, Sept. 5. Users absolutely chomping at the bit to once again reengage with the lawsuit-plagued company can watch the clock tick down until they can shack themselves up for an app waiting list on Aug. 25. All those who sign up early get “priority access” to them and 10 friends for either a $10, $20, or $30 tier, each offering a different, unspecified number of credits they can redeem for movie tickets. Insider reported pricing might differ depending on the users’ home market.
The epic rise and fall of MoviePass was a new take on the classic tale of hubris and abuse of consumers’ trust. The service that let users pay a flat monthly $9.95 fee to get movie tickets on the cheap failed to get movie theaters to sign on, leading to increasingly scummy efforts to keep its 3 million subscriber base paying. The Federal Trade Commission alleged the company had used investors’ money to try and muscle big theater chains like AMC into inking deals, but when that didn’t work they found themselves up a creek, without a paddle, and a hole in the boat large enough to let millions of dollars leak through.
The company settled with the FTC over its complaint, meaning effectively no monetary damages but company leadership are now barred from misrepresenting business endeavors in the future. Executives paid a meager $400,000 settlement last year with the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office for all their alleged fraudulent business practices.
But beyond the financial failures, the startup quickly started to backtrack on services it had offered users once it realized it couldn’t keep up with its promises. It ended unlimited movie viewings and even reportedly tried changing prolific users’ passwords to stop them from ordering so many damn tickets in front of the release of Avengers: Infinity War and Mission Impossible: Fallout. Other reports showed if the company found there were too many people ordering tickets overall, they would activate an automatic “trip wire” that would shut down services altogether. Some people trying to back out of MoviePass’ terrible business model even found themselves re-enrolled in unlimited plans when the company said they failed to opt-in to a new three movies a month plan. And all that would be bad enough if they weren’t just leaving users’ personal and bank info available on a public server.
The fall of MoviePass was so big Mark Wahlberg’s nonfiction production company is making a documentary about it. Imagine using MoviePass to watch a movie about how MoviePass missed the mark on its mangled and mismanaged service—it would be like dividing by zero.
And despite that long list of issues, we’ve been hearing about MoviePass’ return for years now. A website bearing the name and style of the original MoviePass was kept up for weeks before it went down, and we still don’t know exactly who was behind that now defunct site.
But now MoviePass has a new look, going from red to… black, according to the image of the new card shown by Insider. MoviePass is reportedly promising partnerships with 25% of theaters in the U.S., though it’s currently unclear which theaters that pertains to. Users will be able to use an app or a reconfigured MoviePass MasterCard to pay for their tickets.
Of course, this raises the question why there’s any sense of exclusivity for this service’s relaunch, other than to test the waters to see how many people will buy in to MoviePass’s reboot of a reboot. The company has talked up a return for years, especially since Stacy Spikes, one of MoviePass’ original co-founders (who was fired in 2018) bought his company back out of bankruptcy. Spikes has previously told people gathered for an industry event they knew they were “going to make mistakes,” adding they were not “going to get it right out of the box.. But if you guys can help us build a marketplace, we really think we can take this places.”
In an interview with IndieWire, Spikes said that their new slate of services could use technology to get users to watch ads for the chance to get access to more movies, also using the app itself to market movies and other services directly to users, saying people should “think of MoviePass as Airbnb to the movie industry.”
Spikes had reportedly explored a “Web3 Marketplace” that would give users more credits if they agreed to watch advertisements. They even considered using invasive facial recognition technology to make sure you didn’t dare turn your head.