Everyone who signed up for MoviePass, myself included, knew that the fun might be short-lived. We haven't reached the end of this roller coaster ride quite yet, but the startup's flurry of recent price and policy changes look a lot like the wheels are coming off.
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Just two weeks after nixing its unlimited plan and capping vists at four movies per month for new subscribers, Wired reports today that MoviePass is tipping its seesaw and bringing back its flagship plan: one movie a day, every day, for $9.99 a month.
It's been an eventful month or so for the movie subscription app. MoviePass has rolled out a host of changes to buoy its fundamentally unprofitable business model long enough to break even with subscribers.
Last week, the app updated its terms of service to prevent users from seeing the same film more than once. The timing wasn't a coincidence. The company made the change right before the opening of Avengers: Infinity War, a film far more likely to get a high volume of repeat viewings.
MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told Wired the startup is now "absolutely committed" to its unlimited plan, only a week after saying he was unsure if MoviePass would ever bring it back. The company continues to "fine-tune its model," and the policy change against repeat viewings was more about stopping people from misusing cards for more expensive 3D tickets or getting multiple people into the same showing.
The unlimited plan flip-flopping and ban on repeat viewings are far from the only changes we've seen recently. MoviePass has experimented with several different pricing plans and promotions as well. Last fall, the company launched an $89.95 annual plan paid upfront for the year, which works out to a lower monthly price but with a no refund clause. MoviePass also briefly dropped prices to $6.95 per month as a limited-time offer following controversy over whether the app was tracking users' locations in the background.
MoviePass also got embroiled in a scrap with theater chain AMC, which is not the biggest fan of the service. The app briefly stopped supporting several AMC theaters in prime locations within major cities, but Lowe said MoviePass is no longer "contemplating or even thinking about removing any AMC theaters," so for now there's a truce on that front.
Financial projections still cast major doubt on whether MoviePass actually has a viable long-term business. The company's owner, Helios & Matheson Analytics, lost a staggering $150.8 million in 2017 after acquiring MoviePass. Most of those losses are chalked up to the subscription service subsidizing all those tickets. Lowe predicted the company will be profitable by 2019, but you can bet we haven't seen the last of abrupt policy changes and cost-saving measures.
At its core, MoviePass provides incredible value to regular moviegoers in an industry where ticket prices are only going up. The company has been around since 2011, but has amassed more than 2 million subscribers since introducing the $9.99 monthly plan more than a year ago. The quick about-face on the unlimited plan is an indication that the company realizes that despite its financial woes, it can't abandon the reason people signed up in the first place.
In the meantime, this subscriber at least plans to keep seeing as many movies as possible every month for less than the cost of a single ticket.