Monday, November 4, 2013

1 Year With MoviePass


Welp...this was certainly not the post I was expecting to write.

About a year ago, I signed up to be in the beta version of this service called MoviePass. The idea of the service was that you could pay $30 a month for a membership, and then go see a movie a day (not counting 3D or IMAX movies, because those are much more expensive.) With ticket prices at the cinema rising to a little over $10 for regular tickets, I had to see about 4 movies per month in order for my membership to be cost effective.

This was not difficult for the wife and I to do. We bought two memberships, and then all we had to do was check in to the theater on their phone app and then buy the tickets with the debit card the company provided.

As one might expect, since my wife and I have jobs, we see most of our movies over the weekend. Most weekends, we saw about a movie a week. There were bumps here and there where we'd go see 2 or 3 in a weekend, but not often. And, of course, there were a few months were we just couldn't get out to the cinema to see the movies, so our watching wouldn't quite pay for itself.

MoviePass wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Their app was extremely buggy. Often, I would try to check into the theater, and be told I needed to be within 100 yards of the theater...when I was standing inside of it. And while some of their customer reps were fantastic and helpful, others treated you like an annoyance or an asshole simply for calling in. Despite all of that, I didn't really have any complaints. The service was too good to cancel over a few douchey phone jockies.

I've just finished up one year of service with them, and I was about to write a post about how fantastic the service was, and I was going to seriously promote the hell out of it. Not anymore.

Recently, MoviePass sent out an e-mail updating us about the state of the service, and it mentioned new options rolling out.
"We have many exciting new features coming that will improve your experience even more."
One of the biggest drawbacks to MoviePass was, while you could check into regular movies with no issues, going to see, say, Iron Man 3 or The Hobbit would be difficult. Those are the types of movies my wife and I like to preorder tickets for so we can avoid the long line at the ticket window. But you can't preorder tickets with MoviePass, because you have to be within 100 yards of the theater to check in and activate the debit card they provide. I was really hoping that one of the new features would be some way to preorder tickets for highly anticipated movies more easily.

The first feature was basically just the ability to buy a subscription for friends or loved ones for gifts--which is nice since it's been on beta for so long, but I wasn't exactly clamoring for the feature. The next feature mentioned was a Countdown Clock.
"We’re also excited to introduce a new feature: The Countdown Clock. This clock counts down the time until your next available screening."

This seemed like one of those goofy comsmetic things that I wouldn't necessarily care about but that might be occasionally nice and fun. Maybe the clock would be counting down big movies like the next Hobbit film or the next Avengers or something. No such luck:
"You will still be able to go to a movie each day, but there will be a 24-hour period between screenings. Your MoviePass app has already been updated, and you will notice these changes the next time you see a movie."
The way MoviePass used to work, if I watched a movie Saturday night, I just had to wait until it rolled over to Sunday to watch another movie. If I wanted, I could watch a movie Friday night, and then watch a midnight premiere of a film at 12:01 Saturday morning if I wanted to. But I wouldn't be able to watch anything all day Saturday if I did that--I'd have to wait until Sunday.

MoviePass's new terms of service makes it to where I can watch a movie at 7:00 PM Friday night--which the wife and I often do--but then I can't go watch a Saturday matinee of a film while we're in town running errands--which we also often do. We have to wait a full 24 HOURS before we can see another movie, meaning we have to wait until 7:00 PM Saturday night.

That doesn't sound too bad. Consider, however, that if I go to a late showing of a film--say 9:00 PM, which I do for PG-13 movies to avoid as much of the younger crowd as possible--then I have to wait until 9:00 PM the next day to watch another movie.

This is significantly altering the way the service functions and purposefully inconveniencing frequent users like the wife and myself. It's not like I have all the time in the world to watch a movie. My wife and I have day jobs, and our local cinemas typically have a 1:00 showing, a 4:00 showing, a 7:00 showing, and a 9:00 showing. The times vary a little depending on the movie length, but that's about average. No more wandering around the mall on Saturday and deciding to catch a movie on a whim. Nope, can't do that. Saw a movie the day before. We'll find something to do for 3 fucking hours until the next showing.

I'm sure they were trying to stop those people who go see a movie a day--like, the guys that go see 7 movies a week or whatever. But if that were the case, I wish they'd just put a cap on the number of movies you can see in a week. Put a cap on 3 movies a week, and then you're locked out for a certain time. That's reasonable. The average user would be hard pressed to hit that 3 movies a week cap anyway. Or hell, even raising the price of the service would almost be understandable.

However, what really pissed me off about the e-mail was how they were trying to sneak this change in the terms of service by us as an EXCITING NEW FEATURE!!!11!!11!111!!!

Ethan Anderton put it best:
Yes, MoviePass is a business, and this is likely a move that will help them stay operational if certain power users are costing them money. But what's truly insulting is how this policy change has been presented to us as a new feature. We're not stupid, and all the complaints you're receiving on Facebook and Twitter are evidence of that. Maybe if you would have explained this nonsense to us like adults and played to our sympathy about wanting to keep your business going, we would have understood. But now you can be damn sure that I will use MoviePass to the max, planning around this 24-hour countdown clock to make sure you pay for this atrocity. And honestly, there's a good chance I might just drop the service if this continues.

24 hours between films, when the most viable time to use the service for many users, including my wife and myself, is on the weekend, is a stupid decision on the part of the company. When my wife called to complain, she was told there was a 14 day window where we could cancel our service (signing up is sort of like a contract where you guarantee to use the service for a year). Because it's no longer useful or viable as an option, because their new terms of service handicap the usage so much, my wife and I will be cancelling our service. 

I was originally going to wholeheartedly recommend the service. I can't really do that anymore. It's much too expensive if you can't fit in at least 4 movies a month, and they've made it as difficult as possible to do that. 

So long, MoviePass. We had a great year, but I guess all good things come to an end. Let me know if you change things around to make your service more viable. Until then, I'll just start going to the discount theaters more often, instead.