MoviePass Adds Online Ticketing Support by Introducing a Virtual Card
Exclusive: The movie service is also adding access to premium formats like Imax, while planning to sunset its physical card.
Mike SorrentinoSenior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
ExpertisePhones, texting apps, iOS, Android, smartwatches, fitness trackers, mobile accessories, gaming phones, budget phones, toys, Star Wars, Marvel, Power Rangers, DC, mobile accessibility, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, RCS
MoviePass just brought back its signature physical credit card when it relaunched its movie theater subscription service in May, but it's now ready to go virtual. The movie subscription service on Wednesday announced a new virtual card that will support online ticketing, along with other updates that include access to premium movie formats like Imax screenings.
MoviePass CEO Stacy Spikes told CNET that the virtual cards will soon start showing up within its app, and customers can either choose to buy a ticket in person, as MoviePass has traditionally worked, or can copy the card information into any movie ticketing website to buy a ticket in advance.
The process to buy a movie ticket using MoviePass is otherwise largely the same as before. You select a showtime in the MoviePass app, and then use the MoviePass card to purchase that ticket whether in person or using the website. The card is used in conjunction with a credits system that MoviePass now uses, in which each showtime is worth a varying number of credits -- less popular showtimes like weekdays and matinees cost less than popular times like weekend evening showtimes. When buying an online ticket you'll see a slightly higher credit cost to accommodate online convenience fees.
Spikes said that MoviePass subscribers with physical cards will still be able to use them, and new customers will still get the option to receive a physical card if they would like. MoviePass plans to eventually sunset physical cards entirely, but will be using a hybrid approach for theaters that do not yet support contactless payments over a phone.
"Part of it has to do with when you put the card into the app. A lot of the kiosks don't have the capability to use Apple Pay, so you still have to use the magnetic strip if you want to do it on location," Spikes said. "So we just don't know the timing [on when theaters are] going to update their kiosks, so we're flexible on what I would call a complete phase-out."
MoviePass is also adding the ability to buy tickets to shows in premium formats like Imax and Dolby Cinema, which will start appearing in the app in December. These showtimes will also have slightly higher credit values to accommodate the increased ticket prices. For further flexibility towards these more expensive offerings, MoviePass customers will be able to buy packs of additional points.
MoviePass is also launching gift subscriptions, which are helped by the introduction of the virtual card, and early next year plans to launch a "Bring a Friend" feature for buying multiple tickets to a single showtime.
Spikes said that MoviePass has continued to beef up its customer support teams since its relaunch, which was a sore spot during the service's initial months. He said that many of the issues customers experienced were to do with timing issues with in-person ticket purchases, and expects the online ticketing support will help alleviate that issue.
MoviePass is also in development on an optional advertising program called PreShow, in which facial recognition is used to determine if a subscriber has watched an ad in exchange for additional credits. Spikes said the program may arrive as soon as summer next year.
"We do have the basics of it built out, but we want to push it and start testing it probably after we get past Oscar season," Spikes said. "So somewhere between there and the summer, [we'll] begin testing it, and we're starting to have conversations with potential advertisers and brands."
MoviePass is available in the US, and pricing varies by region, as does the value of the credits you get. I found during my hands-on with MoviePass that pricing in the New York area starts at $20 per month for 68 credits (estimated at one to three films) up to a $40 per month plan for 200 credits. Outside of New York and southern California, a $10 plan is available. MoviePass now largely competes against subscription offerings offered by the theater companies themselves, including AMC's A-List, Regal Unlimited and Alamo Drafthouse's Season Pass.