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With New Unlimited Plan, MoviePass Swears It's Got Its Shit Together

Illustration for article titled With New Unlimited Plan, MoviePass Swears Its Got Its Shit Togetherem/em
Photo: Richard Drew (AP)

MoviePass has launched a new unlimited plan, and the company seems to think it has fixed what it screwed up with its original unlimited plan. First and foremost MoviePass has learned that it needs to charge more money. It’s also included plenty of options for it to impose some limits if a user gets a little too unlimited with their theatre-going.

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On Monday the company announced the new plan, which it is calling “Uncapped.” Under the Uncapped plan, subscribers can watch one 2D film a day, for $19.95 per month. A “limited time” offer gets you that same deal for just $9.95 per month with a one-year commitment.

At this point, MoviePass has changed its plans too many times to count. Its last attempt at an unlimited plan, which offered a movie a day for $10 per month, was derailed in part because the company wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming number of people who signed up for the plan. It always expected to lose money while it convinced theaters and movie studios to agree to profit partnerships in exchange for promotion—it just didn’t expect to lose so much money so quickly.

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Now the company plans to avoid entering a death spiral by setting up some safety nets. One might call these safety nets, “limits in case of an emergency.” In a public statement about the new plan MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe suggests the company has learned from its mistakes. But it seems to place much of the blame on people who violated the company’s terms.

“We continue to implement what we’ve learned to combat violations of our terms of use, which we believe will enable us to offer more subscribers the joy of seeing more movies on the big screen,” said Mr. Lowe, in the statement. “Today marks a notable stride in that direction, and we’re excited to be able to offer this new uncapped plan after tireless research and development efforts.”

As Business Insider pointed out, MoviePass’s plan to “combat violations” involves throttling offerings when the company detects “excessive individual usage.”

Responding to a Gizmodo request for comment on the meaning of that term, a MoviePass spokesperson referenced the platform’s terms of service. The section is written in the standard legalese that ensures that no one will ever read its contents. It includes warnings that boil down to something like, “don’t expect us to offer every movie that’s showing at your local theater for every showtime until it sells out.”

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But the most important passages explain that MoviePass has the right to impose “restrictions” based on a range of factors including “the individual user’s historical usage.” That could easily be interpreted as a protective clause that will only be used if your account is suspected of being involved in some sort of fraud. The next clause in the terms of service is more concerning. That line gives MoviePass the right to throttle a user’s filmgoing options in the event that an individual’s use of the service has an adverse impact on “MoviePass’s system-wide capacity or the availability of the Service for other subscribers.” One thing that would certainly have an impact on the availability of the MoviePass service is if it was going bankrupt.

The bottom line is that MoviePass fans can rejoice in the news that their beloved service is back in a way that resembles its most popular incarnation. But know that it could switch things up at any moment. Sometimes MoviePass changes—but in almost every way, it just stays the same.

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[MoviePass, Business Insider]

Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

czargarble
czargarble

Thank you for the reminder that regardless of how much it fiddles with the details, the core business model for MoviePass is still what it has always been: to bully theaters into sharing some of the revenue, or face the risk of being excluded from the MoviePass subscriber base. Everything else amounts to trying to stay alive long enough.

It’s still early, but I guarantee that at some point in this thread, somebody will insist that the theaters are stupid for not partnering with MoviePass, usually while asserting that the theater owners would make more on concessions if they helped out MoviePass. The problem with that theory is this: Movie theaters have far more information about their business than you, I, or MoviePass. They know how many people buy tickets for every performance, how much soda and popcorn they sell at what profit, how much it costs them to run a film for a half-empty theater, what their fixed costs are... I promise you, if selling more tickets at lower prices and making it back on the concessions made business sense, some theater somewhere would already be doing it. That they have all the data and choose not to tells you one thing: it doesn’t. Theaters are not owned by dumb people.

Unlike MoviePass.