MoviePass is about to write the next chapter in its turbulent history. A beta of the revived service will launch on or around September 5th (Labor Day). Pricing will vary depending on each market, but it will be a tiered system costing around $10, $20 or $30 per month. Insider, which first reported the relaunch details, notes that users will get a number of credits each month to see movies in theaters. There won’t be an unlimited plan at the outset.
MoviePass cofounder Stacy Spikes announced at a launch event earlier this year that users will be able to transfer credits. There was no mention of that in an FAQ, though it says more details will be revealed later. The FAQ does not provide details of the Web3 framework Spikes said the service would use, nor was there any mention of the eye-tracking tech the app will supposedly employ to reward users with credits for watching ads.
Those who want to try out the revamped MoviePass can join a first-come, first-served waitlist, which will open at 9AM ET on Thursday on the company’s website and close at 11:59PM on Monday. The beta will have a limited number of users and MoviePass will start sending invites on September 5th. If you’re selected and you become a member, you’ll receive 10 invites that you can send to friends. Returning users who are on the waitlist will receive extra credits when they join.
Not nowTurned onTurn on
The beta won’t go live across the entire US at once. In the FAQ, MoviePass says the “launch determination will be weighted on level of engagement from the waitlist in each market as well as locations of exhibition partners.” It added that the service will be available at all major theaters in the US that accept major credit cards. The company says it has officially partnered with a quarter of US theaters.
There will be a physical card again, though it will be black instead of red. You can use it to pick up tickets at a theater’s box office. Alternatively, you can book tickets through the MoviePass app.
Spikes, who regained control of MoviePass last November, created the service with Hamet Watt in 2011. Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY) bought the service in 2017. A subscription plan introduced that year offered users a movie ticket a day for $10 per month. That approach unsurprisingly proved unsustainable despite the plan’s popularity. The app shut down in 2019.
HMNY filed for bankruptcy the following year amid investigations from the Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, several district attorneys in California and New York’s attorney general. Among its other questionable business practices, MoviePass at one point forced those on an annual plan to renew their subscription three months early if they wanted to keep it. Former CEO Mitch Lowe suggested that the app was tracking users’ locations too. Lowe, fellow principal Theodore Farnsworth and HMNY reached a settlement with the FEC last year over charges that they prevented subscribers from using the service and didn’t do enough to secure users’ data.
The revival of MoviePass comes at a time when theaters are still struggling to drum up business in the wake of pandemic-imposed closures. Regal Cinemas owner Cineworld, the second-largest movie theater chain in the world, said today that it’s considering filing for bankruptcy. The company has around $5 billion in debt. It claimed that the relative lack of blockbusters this year has left it struggling to draw movie fans back to theaters. Global box office revenue this year is down by a third compared with 2019.