News: MoviePass Works Great for Limited Users, Everyone Else Should Seek Another Filmgoing Subscription

MoviePass Works Great for Limited Users, Everyone Else Should Seek Another Filmgoing Subscription

MoviePass was once the best subscription service on the market for getting cheap movie tickets. For the price and the number of films you could see and save money on, it was unbeatable, but recent changes to the service have made it less enticing. While it still works well for some users, others may have to rely on other options. Personally, I'm leaning toward the latter.

While the original MoviePass service's price depended on your location in the country, it slashed costs to just $9.95 a month for everyone, with access to one movie a day. Thirty movies a month? How could you say no? I certainly couldn't.

It also had an annual plan with unlimited movies but has since abandoned it, and some annual subscribers have left because of failed service commitments and are currently seeking a class action lawsuit to get refunded. Those that did get refunds recently had to resort to getting them from the stores where they originally purchased the annual plan, such as Costco.

MoviePass can't keep enough money in the bank each day right now to make it a viable service. It now exists as an affordable yet confusing and sometimes frustrating way to go to the movies, and its plan's terms change constantly due in part to how much cash they have on hand each day to actually pay for all those tickets they buy. So take our information here with a grain of salt — MoviePass is an unpredictable service.

The Current Plan Offered

As of now, MoviePass still charges just $9.95 a month*, and only those 18 years old and higher can join. When you first sign up, you'll be sent a MoviePass-branded debit card which is how you'll pay for most showings. The card takes 7 to 10 business days to arrive, and there's no way to get it sooner. However, if you're one of the lucky few, you won't have to wait to get the card to start using MoviePass.

* See the "New Plans Being Offered" section below for other plans you can pay for right now but not use until later, as well as plans that have no availability date yet.

For that price, you can see three standard 2D movies a month. Unfortunately, you can't just go to any movie you want unless you live near an e-ticketing theater — a partnered theater that gives MoviePass discounted rates. With e-ticketing theaters, besides availability of all standard movies, you can also reserve tickets through the app; Sometimes you will incur a fee, while other times not.

You don't need access to your MoviePass debit card when reserving showtimes from e-ticketing theaters, so if you don't receive your card on time, there's still hope.

  • Install MoviePass: Android | iOS (subscription needed for both)

E-ticketing theaters are few and far between, so for everyone else, only movies preselected by MoviePass for each day are allowed. Many of those preselected, standard 2D movies are indie films that are showing on very few screens across the nation. However, there tends to be at least one semi-wide or wide-release film each day. MoviePass does have "bonus" movies occasionally, ones not in the preselected list, but this does not happen often.

For regular theaters, you cannot order movies from home ahead of time, as MoviePass forces you to be within at least 100 yards of your theater to check in to prevent fraud. However, some users have reported that the 100-yard rule doesn't apply all of the time, as some have successfully been able to check in from home or during the drive there. I've personally experienced both.

Either way, you have 30 minutes to pay for your tickets with your unique MoviePass debit card which is preloaded with the price of the ticket when you check in. And whether or not you're reserving at the theater or via the app for e-ticketing, there are no advanced reservations for later dates. Only movies for the current day are acceptable. You can cancel check-ins at any time except when using e-ticketing, which counts as your movie for the day no matter if you saw it or not.

While definitely not a dealbreaker, MoviePass only lets you watch a movie once, so you can't use MoviePass to view the film a second time. The app will block out that option whenever it's one of the available movies offered after your first viewing. You can view a list of all the films you've seen with MoviePass via "History" in the "Account" tab in the app.

The Biggest Deterrent to Keep You Away

While three 2D movies a month from a preselected list still is a great option for just $9.95 a month, there is one big downside to this — MoviePass has the right to change which showtimes for each movie are available, and those showtimes can change at any minute throughout any given day.

When MoviePass runs out of money for the day, it usually pulls any remaining showtimes left in the app, so you'll get the dreaded "There are no more screenings at this theater today" warning. Sometimes, they have no money for a day so no movies are available despite its list of acceptable movies. If you can't check in because you're not near the theater, but see the showtime in the app, there's a good chance the showtime will disappear as soon as you get to the theater.

I live in a city with one theater, so my options are slim. Over the last few months, I have never been able to utilize my full three movies allotted because of this very reason. The price for one 2D ticket at my theater is less than one month of MoviePass, so if I don't see two movies each month, it feels like lost money.

Unlike with Cinemark Movie Club, unused allotted tickets to do not roll over into the next month in MoviePass, which makes this issue even worse.

To see how many movies you've used each month, MoviePass at least doesn't try to keep that a secret. Via the "Accounts" tab in the app, you'll see an option for "Account Details," and at the bottom of that page, you'll see how many films you have left in the current billing cycle.

You can chat with support and be manually checked in when showtimes for an allowed movie are not present in the app, but MoviePass has implemented a new rule that limits this to a "one-time courtesy." So the only real way to make sure you get all three of your movies each month is to check in and buy them right when the theater opens — a very inconvenient option for anyone with a day job or lack of reliable transportation.

Other Big Deterrents You Need to Know

Another huge downside worth noting is that you can only use one device at any time, and you're locked into that device for 30 days before you can switch devices. To me, this is ridiculous.

For instance, if your phone is acting up and you need to send it in for repairs, but decide to switch to another phone you have on hand, your stuck with that phone for 30 days. If you get your fixed phone back only 10 days later, you can't use it again for 20 more days. And once those 20 days are up and you switch MoviePass' app back to your original device, then decide to upgrade to another phone right away, you'll have to wait yet another 30 days.

Basically, if you have phone issues and don't have any backup phones you could use, you may not be able to use MoviePass for months even though you're paying for it. To make matters worse, when you want to take a break during phone repairs or decide it's too hard to see your three movies each month, when you cancel, you cannot sign up for another 9 months. So if you finally get a working device again or if MoviePass improves, you need to wait it out.

MoviePass representatives did tell me that the company makes exceptions to the above issues in certain situations, but your mileage may vary.

New Plans Being Offered

MoviePass did unveil new annual plans on Dec. 6, 2018. The "All Access" annual plan is $119.95 and is exactly like the current $9.95 plan, except there are no restrictions on what movies and showtimes are available. The plan can be even cheaper if you buy two or more subscriptions at once. There's also a "Red Carpet" annual plan that's $149.95 (cheaper with two or more plans), but the only difference is that one of your movies each month can be a premium format.

Accounts can be created on Dec. 25 but can be purchased now. And it seems that current subscribers cannot switch to these plans unless your plan ended or was canceled before December.

Account can be created starting December 25, 2018, for one year of MoviePass. Code(s) must be submitted no later than April 30, 2019. ... Codes valid only for new subscribers or subscribers with a canceled or lapsed account prior to December 1, 2018. Each purchaser and/or recipient may submit only 1 code. Anyone purchasing or submitting a code must be 18 years of age or older.

New monthly plans have also been announced but are not available yet. There's the $9.95/month "Select" plan (which would be $12.95 or $14.95 if you live in cities with higher-priced tickets), and this is exactly like the current plan offered above. A new "All Access" plan for $14.95/month (or $17.95 or $19.95 in some places) is exactly the same too, only there are no restrictions on movies or showtimes. Last, there's the "Red Carpet" for $19.95/month (or $21.95 or $24.95), which is the same as the "All Access" plan but one of the movies watched each month can be a premium format.

However, note that you need to pay with an ACH bank transfer for the annual "gift" plans, so it limits the ability to get a refund later. There's also now a "misuse" fee of $25 it can charge you whenever you "break" its terms of service. MoviePass' terms also changed to state it can cancel accounts if too many movies are seen, though, no number was given.

MoviePass reserves the right to offer you a new price option if you exceed watching a certain number of movies per month and/or, in the instance of annual subscriptions, suspend your subscription or terminate your Account and MoviePass Card on either a temporary or permanent basis.

But It Can Definitely Work for Some People

If you can find ways to maximize its use, MoviePass is definitely one of the best options. Unlike other plans, there is no initiation fee for joining MoviePass, but there also are no concession discounts, point system, or family plans. And its new 2019 plans sound like they could actually work this time.

You can get a discount of from $2 to $5 on additional tickets, but only after the three 2D movies for the month have been used, and for a lot of users, including myself, that benefit is never even touched. Theoretically, this discount on additional tickets could apply to premium formats, but I haven't even gotten that far each month to test it out.

Additional tickets can be purchased at full price plus a convenience fee for friends, but only for e-ticketing theaters; This is only useful when you want to reserve the best seats in the house together or don't want the showing to sell out.

MoviePass claims it covers over 91 percent of theaters in the US, but you will need to verify that your local theater isn't one of the incompatible 9 percent. Some high-priced specialty theaters and movie houses in big cities with high ticket prices are compatible, but not every single one. MoviePass sometimes removes popular, expensive theaters from its apps.

On the plus side, the company wants premium ticket upgrades for 3D or IMAX at an unknown price, but it has not been implemented. Months ago it said it would be weeks until this feature arrived, but as you can tell, it still hasn't happened.

MoviePass does have a referral program, but it only benefits those you refer. With it, you can only refer up to three friends total, and once they sign up, they get their first month free. You, however, get nothing in return except helping a friend out. There's also support in the app for adding your loyalty theater cards, but as of right now, that only works with D'Place Entertainment, which only has two locations in Cathedral City, California.

Right now, MoviePass is still trying to find its feet. With continual losses, upset board members, a rapidly declining consumer base, and no transparency with customers (remember that "Director of Barketing" email?) that causes trust issues, it feels like a sinking ship.

However, many users who live near e-ticketing theaters or can hop over to their local theater quickly to get tickets in the morning before they disappear have had great success with MoviePass. I wish I was one of those users, but for me and everyone else, it's hit or miss (emphasis on miss). Maybe I'll sign up for one of the 2019 plans.

This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' annual Movies & TV on Mobile special coverage. Read all of the Movies & TV on Mobile coverage.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

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