MoviePass – Don’t Call it a Comeback

“It’s time to have fun at the movies again” -Tim Heidecker, On Cinema at the Cinema

Except it’s not. MoviePass roared back to life late in 2022, but I unfortunately cannot bring myself to roar with it. For those of you who are out of the loop, or who completely forgot about my #1 hobby from around 2017-2018 and an original staple of the Beantown Podcast, I used to watch a lot of movies, particularly those in theaters (including blockbusters and indie releases). The first thing you’re probably thinking is “Quinn, you’re a cheap-ass, there’s no way in hell you’re paying all that money over and over again to see a bunch of movies.” And you’d be right. I am a cheap-ass. Rachel just threw out my plastic 1/4 measuring cup I bought when I was 18. So how did I do it? MoviePass, baby.

If you missed the cultural phenomenon that was MoviePass, the product was launched all the way back in 2011, and when boiled down, essentially allowed you to pay an upfront monthly price (for me it was $9.99, but they’ve been through a whole slew of rates throughout their history) in exchange for seeing one movie a day at the theaters. After you register, MoviePass would send you a debit card in the mail. Once you’re within 0.5 miles of the theater you’re trying to go to, you open up the app, select the theater and film/time, and your debit card will be loaded with the exact amount that movie costs. Pretty ingenious, right? Sounds way too good to be true, right? Well, it was. But for those 15 or so months where I had unlimited power and access to all the movies, it was glorious. I saw indie movies you’ve never heard of. Foreign films that kicked ass. All the best Oscar-nominted animated and live action shorts. Often times, I would even pony up for a $2 small black coffee at the concession stand. I had no friends, no social life, no side hustles, no bastard children living with their mom in South Carolina mailing me letters asking me for alimony – There was something so simple and serene about that lifestyle.

But like all good things, it had to come to an end. By the summer of 2018, things started to get gnarly. MoviePass raised prices. They started blocking certain movies from their service. Millions of Americans never saw Mission Impossible 6 because of MoviePass’ weird glitches, and that is an absolute shame because Mission Impossible 6 is one of the greatest action movies ever made. They literally filmed Tom Cruise skydiving in real life for the Paris drop sequence. Then he learned to fly a helicopter for the final showdown. He could have ended up like Kobe for god’s sake! By 2019, it was all over. Seeing the writing on the wall back in 2018, I actually temporarily tried out a rival competitor, Sinemia. I think I got to use it about 3-4 times before the app completely shut down and the company went bankrupt in early 2019, before MoviePass even officially croaked. And I never learned how to say it. Sin-EM-ee-uh? Sin-uh-MEE-uh? Kryrsten Sineema?

Which brings us to 2022 – MoviePass officially relaunched a beta version, and as one of their previous Sapphire Tier Unlimited Elite Preferred members, I was given VIP access to their super secret waitlist, allowing me first access when the relaunch finally, well, launched. Unfortunately, the second coming wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The unlimited model was gone. In essence, you pay a flat monthly rate (it’s slightly different in each market, but let’s take Chicago for example) of $20/month, or the cost of around 1.7 regular movies, Then you have credits which can be exchanged for a movie, let’s say you get 35 credits/month. As you might expect, MoviePass has the power to price these movies however they see fit. So if you want to go see a 3rd run of Avatar: The Last Airbender, thinking it’s Avatar: Way of Water, on a Tuesday at 11am, you might only have to use 15 credits to see this film. But if you wanted to see the Guardians of the Galaxy 3 at 7pm on a Saturday, that could be 36 credits, meaning you actually have to rollover credits from a previous month just to see one film. On top of that, the support has been getting ‘glowing’ review, and by glowing I mean imagine if all their servers and tech people melted down into a big ball of glowing useless lava. What did Cutty say in “The Wire” ? The game just ain’t in me no more? Preaching to the choir.

So here we are. I still haven’t seen Avatar: Way of Water. Will I even get to see it before Avatar 3: Fire and Rescue comes out? How many credits is it to watch Planes: Fire and Rescue at the dollar theater, 45? It was a hell of a run, and we had so many good times, but it’s just not gonna work. Quinn out.

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