What Happened to MoviePass?

A look into the now defunct movie theater subscription service

MoviePass was a movie subscription service that let you watch movies at participating theaters for a recurring price. It made sense for frequent movie watchers because after just a few visits per month, you'd be saving money overall.

The service was backed by investors like AOL Ventures, garnered millions of users, and was easy to use from their mobile app and the included MoviePass debit card.

However, following a series of issues, MoviePass shut down on September 14, 2019.

How MoviePass Worked

MoviePass card

The idea behind MoviePass was simple: fill out some information to sign up and order your prepaid debit card, pick a movie from the app, check in to the theater when you arrive, and then use your MoviePass card to pay for the ticket.

The card was automatically ready to make a ticket purchase for the exact price of the movie. Tickets could be purchased at most theaters throughout the United States, including large chains and independent theaters.

Every movie that was purchased through the MoviePass debit card was "free" since you were paying for the service. However, there was a limit to how many movies you could watch, and some movies weren't always 100 percent free.

Several features came and went throughout the life of the MoviePass service. There was a time when the plan included two or three movies per month, meaning that you were limited to using MoviePass just that many times. Other movies could be had at a discount.

In some areas, you could watch six movies every month for $50. Another plan MoviePass tried was about $100 for unlimited viewings, which eventually changed to $50 and then around $10.

For a while, you could get any movie you wanted through MoviePass, but then they started limiting ticket purchases only to smaller films instead of new, major releases. What followed was a small selection of movies that you had to pick from.

Why MoviePass Shut Down

For users who used MoviePass all the time, it really did seem too good to be true. If you regularly watched a movie at the theaters every couple weeks, it could easily run over $30 by the end of the month. MoviePass cut this down to a fraction of the cost.

With millions of users, it's clear that it was once a success. However, although it lasted several years after its 2011 launch, MoviePass did have quite a few hiccups along the way:

  • In 2011, shortly after its launch, MoviePass paused its operations because the theaters it planned on supporting didn't want to support the service
  • In 2018, MoviePass needed a $5 million loan, so it shut down for a day
  • In 2018, over one million users cancelled their plan after the unlimited option was removed
  • In 2019, a class action lawsuit was filed against MoviePass for users' inability to use the service due to blackouts
  • In 2019, MoviePass closed down, announcing that they're "unable to predict if or when the MoviePass service will continue"
  • In 2020, Helios and Matheson Analytics, its parent company, filed for bankruptcy

On top of those problems, some movies had additional fees associated with them, app issues caused problems for some users while selecting showtimes, IMAX movies weren't included, and there were reports that user passwords were expiring to presumably prevent ticket purchases.

The concept behind MoviePass that made it popular wasn't what killed it. If implemented correctly and if theaters shared some of their profits with MoviePass, it could benefit everyone. But that just isn't how it turned out.

MoviePass Alternatives

MoviePass is probably gone for good, at least in the form it existed. Whether or not it will come back is still up in the air, but there are some other options to consider if you're looking for a good MoviePass alternative.

Something that made MoviePass so unique was that they didn't offer movies directly. They were just a third-party service that was tied into actual theaters. The closest thing to that are services from the theater.

AMC, for example, has what's called AMC Stubs A-List. It's a monthly movie membership like MoviePass that lets you watch up to three movies every week, either all on the same day or spread out throughout the week. IMAX and other formats are supported, and you also get 10 percent back on food/drink purchases.

Regal Unlimited is another service like MoviePass but it offers unlimited movies and 10 percent off concession stand purchases. There are a few pricing options, including one for $18 /month that lets you watch unlimited movies at over 200 Regal theaters.

Cinemark Movie Club and Alamo Season Pass are similar, and local theaters sometimes have their own program as well, like a dollar or two off every ticket, free birthday movie tickets, and more.

If you like watching movies at home, you can purchase them without ever leaving your house and then watch them on your phone, tablet, or TV. There are several premium movie streaming services as well as sites with free movies.