MoviePass Revives Its Unlimited Plan

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    Some good news for once: After a two-week hiatus, the MoviePass unlimited subscription–the one that lets you see a movie a period, every day, in theaters, for $10 a month–is back. And MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe says the company is “absolutely committed” to retaining it around.

    That wasn’t ever a given. Just last week at industry conference CinemaCon, Lowe said “I don’t know” in response to a question about the unlimited plan’s return. And given some of MoviePass’ previous experimentation with its offerings–be it temporarily removing subscriber access to select AMC theaters in major metropolis, or to specific movies–it perhaps wouldn’t ought to have astonishing if the offering that attracted millions of subscribers in a few short months really was too good to be true.

    As of today, though, you can get back on the unlimited program that MoviePass launched last August. You can also go with a fluctuation on the plan the company temporarily supplanted unlimited with: three movies a month, plus three free months of iHeartRadio All-Access music streaming, for eight bucks. One of the best deals around has returned–along with a seemingly renewed commitment from MoviePass not to keep its subscribers’ psyches spinning.

    After all, even that limitless program has changed its stripes a few times since launching. In addition to the aforementioned blackouts, MoviePass began limiting certain films to one viewing simply. Those regularly introduced limits to unlimited–along with shaky customer service–have stretched subscriber patience thin.

    “It’s fine-tuning this modeling, ” says Lowe. “Everybody craves a consistent offer. Belief me, I crave a consistent offer.”

    To that objective, Lowe says MoviePass is at least through experimenting with AMC theaters. “I can assure you that we are not contemplating or even thinking about removing any AMC theaters, ” he says. “We found out what we needed to find out, and decided that we want to be good collaborators and render a good service to our customers, and our subscribers love AMC theaters.”

    Other recently introduced annoyances may remain, though, as MoviePass combats what Lowe says are the “hundreds of thousands” of subscribers who misuse their membership, employing their MoviePass-issued debit cards to induce acquisitions outside the scope of their arrangement. That can range from buying a more expensive 3-D ticket–MoviePass outlines the line at 2-D screenings–to purchase multiple tickets for a single see, so that, say, a small group can all attend the same Avengers: Infinity War showtime at MoviePass prices. Lowe says some people even accumulate multiple MoviePass cards, and resell the tickets for popular screenings for a profit.

    ‘Everybody wants a consistent offering. Believe me, I crave a consistent offer.’

    MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe

    That explains why repeat considers for popular flicks have become verbotens, as well as a so-called beta program that asks certain member states to upload a photograph of tickets bought with their MoviePass card, to confirm that they’re employing their subscription as intended. Fail to do so more than once? The account gets cancelled.

    A cynic might say that the system seems like a pretty good way to deter high-volume customers, the kind that expenditure MoviePass the most money each month. But Lowe says that frequency of use isn’t one of its triggers; the company looks instead for a “pattern of behavior, ” primarily focusing on accounts that frequently switch machines. That helps limit fraud, but also makes collateral headaches.

    But MoviePass has given itself no margin for correct. It needs to bring in enough customers, quickly enough, that movie theatre and studios will have no choice but to cut revenue-sharing and marketing deals with it. And it needs those bargains to be large enough to keep it from hemorrhaging money. It literally can’t render scam, even if culling it dings honest subscribers in the process.

    “Our goal is to be sustainable and offer the service to subscribers, ” tells Lowe. “In order to do that, we have to have a business framework that works. You cannot have a small percentage of people feeing up a big percentage of your usage, and therefore no one gets the service.”

    That MoviePass sets the onus on customers, rather than building improved protection into its app and card to avoid scam in the first place, may rile some customers. But with any luck, the return of the unlimited plan–along with the commitment to its future, and the detente with AMC–shows that the company has moved past the rockiest stage of experimentation. And in fact, it’s about to induce some positive moves; Lowe says that by the end of May MoviePass will introduce schemes that include more expensive screenings, like 3-D and IMAX, as well as plans to accommodate families and friends.

    In the meantime, while a MoviePass subscription may yet come with unexpected hassles–especially if you’re falsely flagged for fraud–at least its core premise remains intact: a movie a period, every day, for $10 a month. It might not be perfect, but for most people it’s still worth the price of admission.

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