Is MoviePass still worth it? What new changes to the discount ticket app mean for you



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Break out the popcorn, because the summer of 2018 brings the return of the Avengers (“Infinity War”), Deadpool, the Incredibles and an island full of dinos.
USA TODAY

It seemed almost too good to be true. 

Last summer, we were smitten when the ticket app MoviePass slashed its price to $9.95 a month, allowing users to see one film per day at participating theaters. Subscribers activate their MoviePass (in actuality, a Mastercard debit card) with a mobile app, then use it to “pay” for their tickets. The company reimburses theaters the full price of tickets its subscribers buy cheap. 

Subscriptions have blossomed, skyrocketing from 20,000 to more than 2 million people. But with new users have come growing pains, as MoviePass has implemented new changes in search of a sustainable business model that pleases theater chains, movie studios and subscribers alike.

So how do they affect you? We lay out what you can expect from your card and whether it’s still worth the price of admission. 

You can still see one movie a day — but for how long? 

In mid-April, MoviePass announced that new subscribers would be limited to just four movies a month, as part of a bundle deal with streaming music service iHeartRadio All Access that would give users three months of both for $29.95. Although that still equates to roughly one “free” movie a week, the news garnered backlash online and MoviePass reversed its decision just two weeks later.

“Even if it’s four movies a month, they’re subsidizing you, what, like $45 off a month?” says Rhett Jones, a staff reporter for tech site Gizmodo, who before MoviePass would pay $15 per ticket at theaters in New York. “People did get mad (about the temporary restriction), but I don’t think that they’re leaving.”

But even with the about-face, one can’t help but wonder what other restrictions could be on the horizon. According to The Mercury News, MoviePass owner Helios & Matheson earned $10.4 million in revenue but lost $150.8 million last year after acquiring the subscription service in August. 

You can’t see movies more than once, which isn’t all bad. 

Also among the new restrictions: All subscribers (even those who signed up months ago) are no longer allowed to see the same movie twice, so if you wanted to sob through the end of Avengers: Infinity War for a second or third time, you’ll need to pay up. 

But the decision ultimately stands to benefit studios as well as moviegoers,who may not have otherwise seen a film because of lack of promotion or a low Rotten Tomatoes score. 

It can “help the little movies that would otherwise be at risk at $12 a ticket,” says Scott Mendelson, box-office analyst for Forbes. “(Audiences are) more likely to check out a movie like Tully or Overboard because they’ve already seen the various other (blockbusters) coming out. The people that subscribe ideally will want to use it to see something they would otherwise wait for Netflix for.”

Some users have it harder than others. 

Beginning in March, MoviePass aimed to combat fraudulent activity by making some subscribers (myself included) take a picture of their ticket stub after every purchase and submit it through the app. An email from the company warned that failure to share a photo could result in subscription termination, angering those who suspected they were targeted for being frequent MoviePass users. 

This is ultimately meant to be a temporary headache, as MoviePass attempts to weed out scalpers and people sharing their subscription among families and friends. 

Although snapping and sharing the photo takes all of 10 seconds to complete, “something like that, which requires two other steps, is an extra inconvenience,” Mendelson says. “Do I know that it fights fraud? Don’t know. Do I think it’s the kind of inconvenience that might hurt subscribers down the line? Maybe.”

So is it still worth having? 

For the time being, absolutely. MoviePass competitors Cinemark Movie Club ($8.99 monthly) and Sinemia ($4.99 monthly) only allow you to see one film a month, despite the added bonuses of discounted concession snacks, seat selection and buying tickets in advance. While MoviePass may include a couple of extra hiccups on your way to the theater, it’s ultimately a small price to pay for the small subscription price you’re paying.

More: MoviePass brings back movie-a-day subscription for newcomers

Also: How MoviePass wooed me back with $9.95 a month for ‘unlimited’ movie tickets

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