Movie News & Reviews

Planning to use MoviePass to see blockbusters all summer long? Not so fast.

In this Jan. 30, 2018, file photo, Cassie Langdon holds her MoviePass card outside AMC Indianapolis 17 theater in Indianapolis.  The startup that lets customers watch a movie a day at theaters for just $10 a month is limiting new customers to just four movies a month. The move comes as customers and industry experts question the sustainability of MoviePass’ business model. Because MoviePass is paying most theaters the full price of the ticket, the service is in the red with just one or two movies in a month.
In this Jan. 30, 2018, file photo, Cassie Langdon holds her MoviePass card outside AMC Indianapolis 17 theater in Indianapolis. The startup that lets customers watch a movie a day at theaters for just $10 a month is limiting new customers to just four movies a month. The move comes as customers and industry experts question the sustainability of MoviePass’ business model. Because MoviePass is paying most theaters the full price of the ticket, the service is in the red with just one or two movies in a month. AP

Movie lovers waiting to time a MoviePass subscription to the release of the summer's blockbusters may have waited too long.

The high-profile startup enticed customers with its promise of a flat monthly fee of $9.95 to see one movie a day at most major theaters. But recent changes have led to a barrage of complaints on social media sites .

Among the changes:

Rather than the movie-a-day plan for a $10 spot, which sounded too good to be true for movie buffs who would have to pay at least $11 per ticket at most theaters, new customers are now limited to four movies a month. Earlier subscribers are grandfathered without the limit — for now.

Friday's rollout of a new beta test of the service forces some subscribers to take photos of the movie tickets they buy with the company's debit cards, which is a hassle, to say the least.

An update to its terms of service limits the number of times fans can see the same movie to just once. Try telling an "Avengers" fan they can only see "Infinity War" once. Who can keep track of all the superheroes with just one viewing?

Marvel Studios' "The Avengers: Infinity War" opened this week, and "Deadpool 2," "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" are on the way.

But just as Hollywood is gearing up for what it hopes will be a big box office season, some MoviePass users received emails from the company that threatened to cancel their accounts if they did not submit photos of their ticket stubs via the MoviePass phone app.

The Los Angeles Times obtained an email sent by the company to its subscribers that read: "Starting over the next few days, each time you purchase a movie ticket with your MoviePass card, you will be asked to upload a photo of your ticket stub. This feature will help us better track user behavior and ensure that subscribers are abiding by our terms of use. If you fail to submit your ticket stub more than once, your account will be canceled and you'll be ineligible to sign up for a new MoviePass account."

The speculation is that MoviePass has cut deals with studios to promote smaller movies that aren't tentpoles like "Star Wars," "Mission Impossible" and "Jurassic Park" franchises — all of which will play in theaters this summer.

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This image released by Marvel Studios shows Tom Holland as Spider-Man in a scene from "Avengers: Infinity War." Marvel Studios AP

"I would not have bought this card if I had known you weren't going to let me see the same movie twice! I wish there was a way to return it and get my money back. I feel lied to!" a user posted Friday on MoviePass' Facebook post that promoted the coming Mila Kunis summer movie, "The Spy Who Dumped Me."

MoviePass, which was founded in 2011 and initially charged between $15 and $50 monthly, responded: "We recently updated our Terms of Service to reflect that MoviePass subscribers are only permitted to see a select movie in theaters once with your MoviePass. We hope this will encourage you to see new movies and enjoy something different!"

In a column titled "MoviePass is no longer too good to be true" that was posted Friday on The Verge, writer Nick Statt, who identified himself as a subscriber, opined that the company's changes and restrictions are "bad signs" and suggest MoviePass' business model is unsustainable.

"On the business side, all of these tests seem designed to cut corners, save cash, and determine how little the company can get away with offering while it tries to figure out a more sustainable business model," Statt wrote.

Late last year, AMC Entertainment's Chief Executive Adam Aron, who heads the largest theater chain in North America, blasted the startup. “AMC has absolutely no intention — I repeat, no intention — of sharing any of our admissions revenue or our concessions revenue,” The New York Times reported.

But MoviePass' New York parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc., which has an office on Brickell Avenue, told the Miami Herald last week things are swell..

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Last August, Helios CEO Ted Farnsworth cut MoviePass' price to $9.95 to promote growth — which helped turn MoviePass into a household name, and sent subscribers soaring to more than two million up from 20,000, according to The Las Vegas News-Journal.

However, Helios reported a $150.8 million loss in 2017, compared to a $7.4 million loss in 2016. The company says it has more than two million subscribers and looks to Amazon as an inspiration in its goal to boost its customer base.

Despite the growing pains, "We caught lightning in a bottle," Farnswotrh told the Herald.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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