Actually Moviepass is good

Like a lot of people, I signed up for Moviepass when they recently lowered the monthly price to $9.95. Like so many people, in fact, that it took a few months for my Moviepass debit card to arrive. Some theatres apparently allow electronic ticketing through Moviepass, but none do near me, so I just had to sit on my hands until their vendor got around to sending me a card.

It finally arrived, and I've now used it several times, so I thought I'd share a brief report.

How Moviepass works

The Moviepass system consists of two parts: the Moviepass debit card, and the Moviepass smartphone app. Once you've downloaded the app and activated the debit card, you can go to eligible movie theatres in person, open the app, and select the movie and showtime you're interested in. After "checking in" to the movie, money is added to the Moviepass debit card, which you can then use to pay for your ticket.

Not all movie theatres participate, and special screening types like 3D and IMAX aren't eligible. However, there are no limits on showtimes or new releases or anything like that: Moviepass works for all standard showings at all participating theatres.

Additionally, since Moviepass is just a normal debit card, you can combine it with movie loyalty programs like AMC Stubs or Marcus Theatres Magical Movie Rewards.


In my experience so far, this system works perfectly, but it has some drawbacks:

  • You need to buy tickets in person, so if you want to go to a popular movie on a popular day, you may need to hit the theatre early in the day to secure your ticket.
  • You need one card per person, which I find to be a strange restriction; I don't see why they couldn't offer a "couples" subscription that let you add two tickets to the card instead of one.
  • Not all theatres are eligible. Our AMC theatres are in the app, but our Landmark Theatres locations don't appear.

Hacking Moviepass

Here are a few obvious ways you can get more value from Moviepass than they, strictly speaking, intend:

  • At movie theatres that allow advance ticketing (I assume this is 99% of movie theatres), buy a ticket on day 1 for day 2, then another ticket on day 2 for day 2. This would keep you from having to pay for two Moviepass subscriptions in order to cover yourself and your date (but would require two trips to the theatre).
  • Buy a ticket every day whether or not you plan to see a movie. At theatres that offer rewards for each ticket you buy, there's no reason you have to actually see the movie you buy a ticket for. If you're an AMC Stubs Premiere member (a paid membership tier), you earn 100 points per dollar spent, and can redeem 5,000 points for a $5 credit. That means five $10 movie tickets turn into a $5 credit.
  • Buy a gift card every day. It may be possible to load the price of a movie ticket onto your Moviepass card, then buy a gift card for that exact value.
  • Resell (or give away) movie tickets. Movie tickets can be expensive, so you could potentially save people money and turn a profit buying tickets to popular movies and showtimes and then selling or giving them away.

I'm not a priest, and I'm especially not your priest, so complaints about the ethics of doing this will be politely ignored.

Is Moviepass sustainable?

This is the kind of speculation travel hackers love engaging in, so as travel hackers, let's speculate!

What might be Moviepass's business model? As far as I can tell, there are two options:

  • The profitable option is that since most people don't see very many movies, if you had near-universal enrollment in the program the infrequent moviegoers could subsidize the frequent moviegoers, pay for Moviepass's overhead, and produce a profit for their owners.
  • The unprofitable option is that they are burning through venture capital trying to create a proof of concept that combining the demographic information (and other identifying details) of their customers with moviegoing habits will produce a database that is or will be of value to someone, somewhere, eventually. In this version the actual price of the service is irrelevant, since their subscription revenue is merely buying them time to find a customer for that database.

Realistically, the answer is probably a combination of the two: while building a database they hope to sell or license to someone, eventually, they also are trying to enroll as many people as possible in order to improve their ratio of casual to committed moviegoers. They wouldn't mind turning a profit but they aren't counting on turning a profit.