MoviePass: Still a good deal for movie tickets?

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

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

MoviePass? More like MessyPass.

If you've been following along, you know that about a year ago, the movie-ticket subscription service rocketed to fame with this amazing deal: $9.95 per month for one movie ticket per day.

And pretty much every day since, critics and investors wondered how the company could possibly sustain that model. Turns out it couldn't.

Earlier today, MoviePass announced a new plan: $9.95 per month for three tickets per month.

That's a significant change, one that definitely alters the value proposition. So let's talk about that: In light of this new plan, is MoviePass a good deal?

Watch this: MoviePass manages to get more expensive and less useful

Movie math

The unlimited plan always felt a little too good to be true, but it was also overkill: 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 as of April, MoviePass eliminated the option of seeing the same movie twice.)

The company's internal data seems to bear this out as well: In the press release announcing the new three-movies-per-month plan, MoviePass indicated that only 15 percent of subscribers used the service to see four or more movies each month. Consequently, the majority of subscribers won't be affected by the new plan.

The math is much simpler now: If you use your MoviePass card just once a month, it more or less pays for the cost of the subscription (assuming a $10 ticket price). Use it twice and you're effectively getting your tickets for $5 each. Use it three times: $3.32 each.

What's the catch? 

Even with the new model, limitations remain. (Confusion remains, too.) There's still no family or couples plan, though MoviePass will soon allow you to purchase additional tickets at "up to a $5 discount."

You're also still limited to no-frills, 2D viewing, at least for the moment: The company announced plans to support 3D, IMAX and other premium options via an in-app upcharge.

And speaking of upcharges, it remains to be seen what will happen with things like surge pricing (which requires you to pay extra for popular showtimes). MoviePass says it will "suspend Peak Pricing" for customers who migrate to the new plan, but for how long? Meanwhile, I don't like the language indicating the subscription "includes many major studio first run films."

I also don't like that you still can't buy your tickets in advance (meaning the day before or earlier), and unless the theater offers e-ticketing, you can't reserve a ticket at home. You have to actually go to the theater and hope the showing you want isn't sold out.

What are the alternatives?

When MoviePass was offering one ticket per day for $9.95, the various hoops and obstacles seemed easier to overlook. Now, even with the simpler pricing, the service feels overcomplicated and nickel-and-dime-y. 

And it now has competition. AMC's new Stubs A-List lets you see three movies per week for a monthly charge of $19.95 -- though only at AMC theaters, of course. Cinemark has Movie Club for its theaters; $8.99 per month buys you one 2D ticket and discounted concessions. And Sinemia, which works anywhere, has plans starting at $3.99 per month, though you'll pay a membership fee of $20 unless you sign up for an annual plan.

If nothing else, it's worth shopping around. Figure out how many movies you typically see in a month and where you typically see them. AMC's plan currently offers the most bang for the buck (up to 12 movies, including 3D and IMAX), but if you have to drive an extra 20 miles to get to the theater or you only see two movies per month anyway, it might not be worth it.

As for MoviePass, it's still a good deal if you regularly see 2-3 movies per month and don't mind seeing them in 2D. But I'd advise against buying an annual subscription, because with a company this volatile, there's just no guarantee it's going to survive.

Now, will somebody please invent PopcornPass so I don't have to pay $8 for an 8-cent tub of corn?

Updated Aug. 6 2018 at 9:05 a.m. PT: This post was originally published on Aug. 16, 2017, and has been updated with new pricing and information.

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