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MoviePass: Still a good deal for movie tickets?

Now that the unlimited plan seems to be gone for good, is this subscription service still a solid value? The Cheapskate weighs in.

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With MoviePass' current subscription plan, you can see four movies -- in a theater -- each month for $9.95. Only the popcorn costs extra.

MoviePass

Update 5/2/2018: MoviePass continues to operate in a strange state of flux. Last week it appeared the company was doing away with its unlimited plan (as reflected below), but as of today, that plan has returned. Will it remain? We'll see, but for the moment we're basing our assessment on the limited version of the service -- which seems the most likely to survive long-term. 


Oh, great, another subscription.

What with Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Spotify and so on, I'm not about to sign up for yet another... hang on. MoviePass lets me do what?! For how much?!

That was my reaction last August upon learning that, for $9.95 per month, I could hit my local movie theater as often as once per day. I could literally see 30 movies in a month for the price of one ticket.

From the jump, analysts argued that MoviePass couldn't possibly sustain itself with this model. And it appears they were right: This one-ticket-per-day subscription option appears to be gone, and MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe says he "doesn't know" if it'll return.

Now, your $9.95 buys you just four tickets per month. That's quite a change, so let's take a look at whether MoviePass is still worth it.

Movie math

The unlimited plan felt a little too good to be true (and after eight glorious months, it turns out that it was). But it was also kind of ridiculous, because who's going to the movies every single day? Even if you're willing to sit through the dregs, there just aren't that many films to see.

And, sure enough, the data bears this out: In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, the CEO of parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, said 88 percent of current MoviePass subscribers see only two movies per month.

Under the current plan, you can still see four movies per month -- and that's still some mighty good math. Assuming you actually do that, your net cost is less than $2.50 per ticket. Even if you go just twice, as the majority of MoviePass customers do, it works out to less than $5 per ticket.

In fact, as long as you get to the cineplex at least once per month, you're pretty much covering your cost. (The national average for a movie ticket is about $9, so it's close to a wash.) Everything else is gravy.

What's the catch? 

MoviePass is far from perfect. You're still limited to no-frills, 2D viewing: No 3D movies, no IMAX, no D-Box or anything else that would normally involve an upcharge.

Also, you can't buy your tickets the day before, and unless the theater offers e-ticketing, you can't buy a ticket via the app: You have to actually go to the theater and hope the showing you want isn't sold out. (Find out more about all this in CNET's overview of how MoviePass works.)

Finally, there's the question of friends and family. Sometimes it's just my wife and me; sometimes we take the kids. So do I buy four subscriptions, or just two? What if it's guys' night out and everybody wants to see Deadpool 2 in Imax? Now I've got to pony up full price, or try to talk them all into slumming it on the small screen.

These are, of course, first-world problems. MoviePass is a still a pretty amazing deal. The question is whether it can sustain itself even under this new, non-unlimited model.

And, yes, a tub of popcorn will still cost you $8. (Gasp! Million-dollar idea: PopcornPass. Mine! Trademarked!)

Editors' note: This post was originally published on Aug. 16, 2017, and has been updated with new pricing and information.