Are the problems at MoviePass irreversible? Will the app that provided access to thirty movies [now three] a month for a low $10 monthly fee [$14.95 plus surge pricing] fade away? Sadly, ScanMyPhotos.com says YES!
We celebrate entrepreneurial inventiveness and aspire to model our 28-year photo digitization business by learning from the best. Schooled from the worst is also a virtue for what not to do. In the case of MoviePass, the latter, unfortunately, is now the model.
Its parent company — Helios & Matheson — said in May that it had enough cash to last over a year. Even their website suggests that it is less about movies and more about harvesting data (see our related story on Facebook’s predicament with data-harvesting). They explain their business is about “BIG DATA, INTUITIVE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, PREDICTIVE BIG DATA ANALYTICS, DATA VISUALIZATION SOLUTION.” So where is the mention of getting a great deal to watch your favorite films?
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These are the chat messages we had with MovirPass:
Because ScanMyPhotos has been lucky enough to earn the trust of many celebrities, producers and executives within the entertainment industry (including Katy Perry’s family), we did so by engaging them. Learning everything about them. Watching and listening to their performances. We even attend way too many concerts and events to meet these notable superstars. We need to earn their trust to privately digitize their lifetime of personal photographs. Movies are a big part of this engagement. When we talk with these luminary hotshots and their representatives, it is important to be topical. Discussing their latest TV performance and films with the talent help bridge the conversation from digitizing their decades of photographs to what they are doing.
This is where MoviePass played a helpful role. Due to all the screening we attend, the $10 deal was valued. Then they added an Uber-like “surge pricing” component. But now, they are blocking movies like Mission Impossible or charging fees even when the early matinee is literally empty.
Now, we learned from Chance Miller, 9to5Mac’s editor that “MoviePass temporarily goes offline because it ran out of cash.”
MoviePass’ struggles have been well-documented over recent months as it struggles to turn anything close to a profit. Today, things took a major turn for the worse as the company completely ran out of cash and the service went offline temporarily. As reported by CNN, MoviePass’ owner, Helios & Matheson, disclosed in an SEC filing today that it borrowed $5 million cash in an effort to “pay the company’s merchant and fulfillment processors.”
According to The Atlantia Journal-Constitution, MoviePass users say they’re getting surcharge prices even when movie theaters are empty. Back in January, Brian Barrett a news editor at WIRED wrote:
The more subscribers MoviePass signs up, the more money it loses. It pays theaters full price for each ticket, whether a member visits once or 31 times a month. It has to provide for customer service to support those 1.5 million people, many of whom have lobbed valid complaints—MoviePass issues debit cards to each of its members, and initially couldn’t keep up with demand—as the service struggled with its rapid expansion. And that’s on top of the usual, unglamorous costs of running any business. (Backends don’t maintain themselves.) If it seems like MoviePass is too good to be true, that’s because right now, it is.
What to do? Have you encountered similar issues? Last weekend, we asked a theater ticket taker at The Grove LA’s Pacific Theaters how many guests are redeeming the card and the number was a staggering 80 percent. As MovePass reportedly pays the theaters full price, if you see just one film a month they are in the red.
We dropped MoviePass even though the company still maintains they will grow their subscription rate from about 3 million subscribers to 20 million. According to Ben Tobin at USA Today, the average customer sees less than three films a month. Now the cost accelerated 50 percent, from $9.95 to $14.95 per month. And there is a new limit from thirty to just three films each month.
Launched in 2011, MoviePass didn’t catch major traction until it lowered its monthly fee to $9.95 in 2017. The impact was immediate: The subscriber base has jumped from 20,000 then to more than 3 million today.