When I first heard about MoviePass, it sounded too good to be true.
See what you think.
Subscribers pay $9.99 a month to see as many movies as they want. Not streaming at home or receiving DVDs in the mail, but going to an actual theater to see brand new movies.
And let me repeat, just to clarify, the cost is $9.99 per month. Not $9.99 per movie. You can see as many movies as you want each month, but you’re limited to one a day.
What’s the catch? Because there’s got to be a catch, right?
For starters, you’ll need a smartphone so you can download the MoviePass app. You’ll need it with you whenever you see a movie.
You’ll also need a MoviePass debit card, which will be sent to you via postal mail.
When you are in close proximity (100 yards) to the theater, you open the app and see a list of movies currently playing. You click on the one you want. MoviePass then deposits the appropriate amount of money to the debit card and you use that card (as you would any type of payment card) to purchase a ticket at the box office.
The terms and conditions of MoviePass makes it clear that it only works at major movie theaters, like AmStar, Carmike or Regal. It doesn’t work at small independently owned movie houses or IMAX theaters.
Another caveat is that ticket purchases cannot be made days in advance. If you arrive at the theater for an opening-night “Star Wars” premiere and it’s already sold out, you’ll just have to come back another time.
While checking online reviews from MoviePass subscribers, I could find only two complaints.
One guy said he went to his favorite cinema to see a movie, but the theater wasn’t showing up on his smartphone app. As it turned out, he was trying to check in at an independently owned movie house. (Did he not read the terms and conditions?)
Second complaint was from a reviewer in Los Angeles, where movie lines are notoriously long. He was peeved that he couldn’t buy a ticket in advance and skip the line. (Did he not read the terms and conditions?)
Just when my husband, Tim, and I decided to give it a try, he came across a special promotion from Costco offering a one-year subscription to MoviePass for $89.99 (or $94.99 for non-Costco members). That works out to less than $8 a month. What a sweet deal.
He purchased a subscription for himself, then logged back on to purchase one for me. Within two weeks, our debit cards arrived in the mail and off we went to Quintard Mall to see “The Post.”
When we arrived at the box office, we each opened the app on our iPhones to see a list of movies playing at AmStar. We made our choice and waited mere seconds to receive the message, “Success! Go Buy Your Ticket!” We stepped up to the window and used our MoviePass debit cards to do just that.
Worked like a charm.
The next day, we returned to see “The Greatest Showman,” repeating the process without a single hitch.
There are no discounts or freebies in play here. The theaters are fully compensated for the transaction.
So how does MoviePass make money?
With 1.5 million subscribers to date, and more signing up each week, there is bound to be a percentage of patrons who will never use it. (That pretty much describes me and Netflix.)
The real money to be made, however, is the selling of information.
Mitch Lowe, former president of Redbox and a founding father of Netflix, currently serves as the CEO of MoviePass. He doesn’t hide the fact that the company is selling subscribers’ data, and I suspect that equates to big, big, big money.
But I don’t care. Every other company is selling my information and I don’t get anything for it. So sell away, MoviePass.
Now if they could just work out an unlimited popcorn deal.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.