MoviePass, which rose to prominence for letting customers watch unlimited movies in theaters for $9.95 per month, has found itself on the brink of collapse over the past few months. In late July, the company took out an emergency loan to keep operating, and as of publication time, its stock was in the toilet. It announced a 50% price increase in late July, only to turn around a week later to say that it would not raise prices (yay!) but would instead ditch its unlimited free movies feature and limit users to three movies per month for $9.95. If you feel dizzy, well, same here.
MoviePass said that only 15% of its over 3 million subscribers were seeing more than three movies per month, so the latest change won’t actually affect the majority of MoviePass subscribers. But for a small group of people who were extreme MoviePass abusers, this is an end to a wild era.
To be fair, these customers weren’t exactly "abusing" it; they were using MoviePass exactly as advertised. Even MoviePass said that it doesn’t consider people who saw daily movies abusers — the company just can’t afford to keep catering to them. Though a representative for MoviePass did call out scalpers and unauthorized card usages, the representative also told BuzzFeed News, "We want to be clear that frequent usage of MoviePass isn’t considered abusing the program."
So let’s not call them abusers. Let’s call them, uh, power users.
Here are their stories:
The Ticket Times Hacker
"Before Moviepass's ticket verification, I would check into movies on days I wasn't planning on seeing anything, then purchase tickets for movies showing at that theater in the future."
The Forgetful Viewer
"I used MoviePass for a ticket to see Avengers: Infinity War six different times but never went, whoops."
The Power Users Who Knew It Wouldn’t Last
"I thought MoviePass was too good to be true from the moment I signed up and was determined to use a great value proposition as much as I could."
"Honestly I feel everyone knew it was too good to last. … the business model never made sense to me nor to anyone else I talked to."
"It did always feel like something of a foregone conclusion that the service would be unsustainable. Our present economic conditions are such that any opportunity to exploit massive corporations or even capital-minded growing companies, if that’s a fairer characterization of MoviePass, is fair game as far as I’m concerned."
The Repeat Viewers
"My biggest feat was seeing Lady Bird six times. Had Unsane been in theaters longer, it would have given LB a run for its money, but as it stands, Lady Bird is the movie I have seen the most in theaters, and MoviePass was solely responsible."
"I saw Blade Runner 2049 four times in eight days and I loved every minute of it. I'm gonna miss this so much. … A way to get around [the no-repeat-viewings rule, imposed in April] was to select 'Missing movie?' [in the app]. That would just upload the money as well."
The Vengeful Scammer
"I saw a lot of movies with MoviePass, but I didn’t start abusing it until MoviePass started abusing me. The way you can see a movie more than once is by getting a ticket to another movie that’s roughly at the same time as the movie you want to see. Then you just go in that theater instead. Theaters don’t really care what movie you see as long as you’ve paid.
"I also found a trick so I can see IMAX movies with my MoviePass. Prices aren’t crazy for IMAX tickets here, about $16. So I could check in to a normal showing, then buy an IMAX ticket. I’ve only done it a couple times, but it was pretty cool.
"I also found a way to get tickets for more than one person. If I wanted to see a movie with a date, I could check in a day before, but buy a ticket using the self-serve kiosk. Then when I get there the next day, buy a second ticket for my date.
"I didn’t start doing this until MoviePass kept changing all the rules and adding extra charges and all the other bullshit they’ve pulled to basically punish their customers for using their service. It feels kind of personal now, so I’m going to keep using the shit out of it."
"My retired dad parlayed his MoviePass subscription into a gig as the local paper movie critic. His reviews were actually pretty good!"
—Name withheld to preserve dad's privacy
"Turned into a real addiction, even started my own Twitter reviewing platform thanks to MoviePass. Now they have me reeling like an addict needing a fix and still going to as many movies as time permits, whether I have to pay or not."
The Guy Who Hated His Roommate’s Dog
"My apartment is a terrible place to hang out. I have a bed and some chairs, but not like real furniture. … I had a roommate that just adopted a short-haired male dachshund (the worst kind of dachshund: They bark at everything and pee whenever they get excited). Going to the movies was a way of avoiding the dog and any dog-related duties after work."
—Graham Jones, whose apartment didn’t have air conditioning until this month
A Godsend for Cheap Dates
"I got MoviePass when I was unemployed and traveling for three months. I used it almost every day as a place to sit comfortably for two to three hours. … Then after I got a job again, it paired very well with Tinder."
MoviePass as Therapy
"There was a week where I saw a movie every day for seven days. I was going through a tough time and movies were the only thing that could get me out of the house. I feel for the people who subscribed to MoviePass for a similar reason and are now being denied what was originally marketed towards them because it really helped me out of a rut."
MoviePass as Relationship Therapy
"My wife and I have four kids and a desperate need to go out. … MoviePass made that possible. … We had a couple of rough months financially, to be honest. I started a business. It was stressful and tight. But MoviePass allowed us to go on a bunch of nearly free date nights. That helped with the stress and honestly improved my marriage. It sounds crazy, but that card helped us spend real quality time together."
The Indie Film Buff
"Without MoviePass, I would maybe go to 12 or so movies all year and rely predominantly on streaming services to catch films. Rather than seeing major releases, I was more interested in supporting indies, foreign films, arthouse releases, and repertory screenings. ... I caught an e-ticket showing of Mission: Impossible – Fallout yesterday afternoon, but I was unable to purchase a ticket to John Waters's Female Trouble earlier today.”
—Hubert Vigilla, 161 movies in 2018 (so far)
The Rock Film Buff
"Moviepass opened up a whole new genre of movies — the MoviePass Movie. Roughly equivalent to a movie you'd watch on a plane but never seek out. I think honestly it's been huge for The Rock. Most Rock movies fall into this category. I used MoviePass to go see Jumanji last year and it was probably my favorite film of 2017, no bullshit."
The Guy Who’s Going for the Record
"I am probably the most frequent MoviePass user in the country. I have watched a new movie every day using MoviePass since Jan. 5, 2017. That adds up to 570-plus consecutive days at the theater.”
—John Parker, aspiring screenwriter
(Many theaters have loyalty programs that give you free popcorn or soda after buying a few tickets. MoviePass power users discovered they could rapidly rack up the rewards points with their passes. For some people, the free popcorn and sodas alone made up for the price of a MoviePass each month.)
"I abused the hell out of Moviepass. To this day, every time I pass a theater on the way to or from work, I just buy a ticket and don’t see the movie. It became a game for me to get the most loyalty rewards points at my favorite theater chain. … I’ve built up enough points to buy at least a dozen movie tickets for after the likely demise of Moviepass."
"While I was attempting to be a vegan on a student budget, I wanted to test the bounds of what MoviePass made possible. I wanted to see if I could survive off of mostly popcorn, on their dime."
"I stuck to popcorn — large combos — but you could probably hit up a Chipotle. Their algorithm approved transactions upwards of $25; if there was a limit, I didn’t find it with outrageous concession prices. I 'saw' a lot of children’s movies that week."
The MoviePass Stockholder Who Loves the Free Popcorn
"I bought 420 shares when the price was around 35 cents in early to mid-June. … I even convinced my girlfriend to buy some shares, and she’s still mad that she now only has one share worth under a quarter now. ... We scan the same Regal card for both tickets so we’ve racked up almost 100,000 credits in our Regal app, which has meant a lot of free popcorn and drinks. MoviePass basically subsidized our concessions."
—Josh Gray, owner of MoviePass stock
The MoviePass Pooper
"I’d check into a movie I had no intention of seeing just so I could use the bathroom. New York City is such a bathroom desert, and movie theater bathrooms are always empty and cavernous. [Once] I checked in to The Greatest Showman, pooped, and left through a different entrance so they wouldn’t see me leave five minutes after I walked in."
Illustrations by BuzzFeed News