I tried MoviePass, and if you’re a movie lover, it’s almost too good to be true

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I tried MoviePass, and if you’re a movie lover, it’s almost too good to be true

If pressed for any information about me, my friends will probably offer up the following two pieces of information: I love going to the movies and I am also shamelessly cheap. Thirty-day free trials? That’s why you make fake email addresses. Free food in college? I was there. Free movies? Be still, my heart. 

So you can imagine my joy when it was revealed that MoviePass lowered its subscription price to $9.95 a month. It also sounded too good to be true. So, I signed up to try out the service. Read on to find out if the service is worth it and to find out how to see as many movies as you want in the theater for the price of a Netflix subscription.

What is MoviePass?

MoviePass is a movie ticket subscription service founded in 2011 and run by Netflix co-founder Mitch Lowe that allows viewers to watch one movie in the theaters per day for $9.95 a month. The subscription cost was originally a tiered pricing model based off of a viewer’s location and how many movies they saw per month. In 2016, pricing plans were anywhere form $15 to $50. Then last month, the price dropped to below $10 for everyone. 

I read somewhere that some theater chains don’t like MoviePass. What’s that about?

This is true. Shortly after the subscription price went down to $9.95 a month, American Multi-Cinema Theatres (AMC) threatened MoviePass, saying that their low subscription model “is not in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theatres and movie studios,” Variety reported. “We are actively working now to determine whether it may be feasible to opt out and not participate in this shaky and unsustainable program,” AMC said in a statement.

Lowe fired back: “This is so much like Blockbuster was when we rolled out Netflix or Redbox,” hes is quoted as saying in the same Variety article. “It’s the big guy being afraid of the little guy offering better value to consumers.”

Right now MoviePass is still accepted at AMC Theatres nationwide, but if AMC ever does go through with legal action against Movie Pass, subscribers could be out of more than 380 theaters across the country.

Indeed, AMC is already trying to one-up MoviePass at its own game. The chain is ramping up promotion for its $5 Ticket Tuesday plan, where AMC members can purchase a ticket for only $5 from now until Oct. 31.

OK, I’m still interested. I like movies. How can I sign up?

Glad you asked. Here’s how my experience went.

First, I ordered the card through MoviePass’s website the day after the price went down. Signing up involves a one-time charge of $9.95 for the card. I got charged for the actual subscription once I started using the service. 

Then, I waited for the card to arrive. Because of the intense surge of demand after the prices dropped, it took a  little longer than the advertised shipping date, but it soon came in the mail.

This is what the MoviePass card looks like when it comes in the mail. Jake Harris

I almost threw the envelope away at first because I thought it was junk mail. There was nothing on the envelope to indicate that the card was from MoviePass and it was postmarked as being from “Prepaid Processing” in Cincinnati. So, y’know, just be on the lookout for that if you sign up.

Next came the iOs app download (an Android version is also available). At first it was very buggy and crashed a lot (probably due to a server overload, just like the website did on the day after the price change was announced) and I wasn’t able to create an account on the app through Facebook. I had to create an account using my email address instead (and I haven’t really tried to link my Facebook account since). 

Then, the fun part. Time to actually use the card out in the wild. According to MoviePass, the card works at more than 4,000 theaters (including Alamo Drafthouse). Here’s a map from the website detailing some of its Central Texas offerings:

Here is a sampling of the theaters in Central Texas that take MoviePass cards. Screenshot.

For my test run, I chose to see a screening on a Saturday night at the Cinemark at Southpark Meadows. Buying a ticket through the MoviePass app can be kind of convoluted, so here are the steps broken down:

Step 1: You have to physically check in at the theater. Like, within 100 yards of the box office. This means no buying tickets in advance. You can buy a ticket for a later screening, but you would have to make two trips to the theater. Not that much of a hassle depending on how much time you have, but this might be a deal-breaker for some.

The GPS on your phone ensures that you, the ticketholder, aren’t trying to get more than one ticket per day. 

I picked a 7 p.m. screening of “Wind River,” the third film in writer-director Taylor Sheridan’s loose “American Frontier” trilogy (the first two being “Sicario” and the Texas-set, Oscar-nominated “Hell or High Water.” “Wind River” is about a game tracker who helps solve a murder on a Native American reservation).

The check-in screen shows up once you pick your movie. Screenshot.

Step 2: Pick the theater you are at, and the movie and the time for which you want to purchase a ticket.

Step 3: If this is your first time using the card, you have to activate it.

First things first- get your card ready. Screenshot.

Once you put in the digits, you get a message like this:

Now you're registered. Screenshot.

Step 4: Select your ticket and then head to the box office. 

Success! Screenshot.

This doesn’t mean that a ticket has ~actually~ been bought (as I found out later). All this means is that your MoviePass debit card now has enough money on it to buy one ticket for exactly one movie at one time- in my case, only the 7 p.m. screening of “Wind River” at the Cinemark at Southpark Meadows. Now you have to go use the card to actually buy the ticket.

Step 5: “Buy” the ticket.

This is where I got confused. The Cinemark I went to has a self-ticketing kiosk where you can pick up tickets purchased online. I thought that maybe since I got the ticket, I could swipe my MoviePass card and a ticket would have already been reserved for me. No dice.

Nope. Screenshot.

Off to the box office I went. 

The man working the ticket booth said he hadn’t seen many people using MoviePass and wasn’t entirely sure how it worked, but he was gracious at dealing with my confusion anyway. He rang me up for a ticket for the time I had selected on the app. I paid with my MoviePass card— and it worked.

*Cue Kevin McAllister voice* Wow, it worked.

Step 6: Enjoy the movie. The film was excellent. I thought it worked as both a  straightforward crime procedural and as an examination of how the America of today treats the the people who first occupied the America of centuries ago. Excellent acting all around, too.

Is MoviePass worth it?

If you go to the movies as often as I do, yeah. As seen in the above photo, I would have paid $11.85 for the ticket I bought with a subscription of $9.95. One movie, and the service has already paid for itself. Watch two or three movies a month in the theater (as my pace has been so far this year) and the subscription is a really good deal.

There are some cons, though.

First, the geolocation bit. If there’s a big movie coming out that I want to see (like “IT,” which I saw at an Alamo Drafthouse with a pre-ordered ticket) I’m probably going to pre-order the ticket. And if you want to see a movie with a date, friends or family, you can’t purchase their tickets with your subscription. They have to pay full price or they have to be subscribers, too. And that’s not to mention that for some, another app tracking your location isn’t ideal. 

MoviePass also doesn’t cover IMAX or 3D screenings, and while they show up in the app when you search for showtimes, the times for those formats are greyed out.

No hopes of seeing "Dunkirk" in glorious IMAX at the Bullock with MoviePass. Screenshot.

But those are small prices to pay knowing that you’re actually paying a very small price to watch up to 30 movies in the theater every month. Will I hit that number? I hope not. But even if I only watch two movies a month, this thing is worth it. The cynic in me wonders how this could be, so I’m trying to use MoviePass as much as I can before AMC sues them or the subscriptions go back up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see a movie. 

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