MoviePass has, at least for now, ended the plan that made it famous. While subscribers who signed up until mid-April could see one movie per day for around ten bucks a month, new subscribers can now only sign up for a plan that allows them to see just four movies per month.
Existing subscribers won’t be affected by the change. But they might be the last of a dying breed. MoviePass described the new plan as a way of testing a new model, and said “this does not mean that our unlimited subscription will not be offered in the future.” But when asked by The Hollywood Reporter whether the one-per-day plan would return, CEO Mitch Lowe replied only “I don’t know.”
MoviePass has also made another, smaller change, saying it will now restrict all subscribers to seeing a movie only a single time. According to statements from the company, that change was made to prevent fraud.
But the end of the one-movie-per-day plan is the big news here, and there are a few possible reads from a business perspective. First, the revised plan seems, on the face of it, like an attempt to save money. MoviePass’s bold plan to pressure theater chains to cut revenue-sharing deals has led to some agreements with independent theaters and the fairly small Landmark chain, but it hasn’t managed to crack big chains like Cinemark or AMC.
That means it’s still paying full price for the vast majority of its users’ tickets, without much in the way of obvious offsetting revenue sources. The pressure is starting to show: MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson offered new stock this month, saying it might use the funds for MoviePass operations.
That said, cutting tickets to four per month might not have a massive impact on the bottom line. Anecdotally, a lot of subscribers report seeing four or fewer movies a month already, and existing subscribers – which likely includes many of the film buffs inclined to see the most films – will keep their unlimited plans.
And cutting its plan to four films per month will probably make new customer acquisition a lot harder for MoviePass, which has grown massively since dropping its price last year. That’s simply because it reduces the “no brainer” aspect of the unlimited plan, and forces potential subscribers to do a little math based on their habits. A subscriber slowdown could, in turn, make it harder for MoviePass to pressure theaters into giving it the discounts it needs to find sustainable footing.
Worst of all, MoviePass appears to have done a truly shoddy job of communicating about the various changes. The disappearance of the “unlimited” plan wasn’t widely noticed for more than two weeks, potentially creating frustration and confusion among new subscribers. And based on online chatter, there seems to be confusion among existing subscribers between the two near-simultaneous changes, one which applies to all subscribers (they can only see each movie once), and one which applies only to new members (the limit of four movies per month). Further, IndieWire points out that the new subscription plan includes a three-month iHeartRadio trial subscription which automatically converts to a paid subscription if the subscriber doesn’t cancel — a fact that MoviePass has arguably been less than transparent about.
Regardless of how they’re individually impacted, subscribers are taking the news hard. One commenter in the MoviePass Reddit forum this morning referred to MoviePass as a “sinking ship,” and though leadership insists everything is fine, an auditor recently agreed.