- MoviePass lets customers watch unlimited movies in cinemas for a flat monthly fee of around $US10 – and some customers are going wild.
- Business Insider spoke to MoviePass power-users, some of whom watch 4 or more films a week, costing MoviePass hundreds of dollars each per month.
- One customer said they go watch literally every single movie that comes out.
- The company says that 80% of its users watch fewer than 4 movies a month.
When Travis, a 45-year-old DMV employee from Texas, saw “Love, Simon” in the cinema, the romantic teen comedy really spoke to him. “It was a movie I wish had come out when I was a teen going through many of the same struggles,” he said.
So he went to see it again. And again. And again. And again and again and again.
In total, he says he saw “Love, Simon” in the cinema 17 times – 14 times of which he saw by taking advantage of his subscription to MoviePass, the service that lets customers watch one movie per day in cinemas for a flat monthly fee of about $US10.
MoviePass has drawn scrutiny and speculation about the future of its business: Helios and Matheson Analytics, the owner of MoviePass, is losing more than $US20 million a month as subscribers like Travis make full use of their subscriptions, placing it in financial peril.
Indeed, MoviePass has since limited customers to only seeing any given movie once at the cinema. But it still has a die-hard core of devoted customers, who often see more than a dozen movies a month. And MoviePass currently pays full price for customers’ tickets, meaning these power-users can cost the company $US100 a month or more, each, while still only paying their $US10 or so a month.
In a statement provided to Business Insider, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said: “80% of our members see fewer than four movies per month, however we know there is a segment of moviegoers who use the service more frequently. We’re grateful for the support of all our members and love the level of energy and enthusiasm they bring to our great offering.”
Business Insider spoke to these power-users to learn more about why they’re so obsessed with MoviePass – and what they think of the company’s future.
Spoiler alert: These people really love movies.
‘It has become a bit of an obsession’
Roy Guthrie, a 47-year-old retiree, now has a simple strategy when it comes to seeing movies in the cinema: He watches everything. In the space of six weeks, he’s seen 25 films, viewing everything available in his local cinemas. “Some surprises and some stinkers, but it has been fun. I will keep it up, as long as [MoviePass] lives,” he said. “It has replaced a lot of my Netflix/Hulu activity.”
At his peak, 49-year-old investor Michael Johnson was going to the movies with his wife 5 or 6 times every week. Now it’s a little more sedate – the couple, who recently sold a business, “and for the first time in a very long time both have free time,” go between 2 and 4 times a week, totaling 110 since September 2017. “It has become a bit of an obsession,” he added.
That’s about a $US120/month of cost to MoviePass, assuming a ticket costs $US10, and not including Johnson’s wife.
Adrienne Taylor is a big, big fan of the recent Hugh Jackman musical “The Greatest Showman.” She said she paid to go see it 16 times – then used MoviePass another 10 times.
“We love musical theatre and we fell IN LOVE with ‘The Greatest Showman,'” she explained. “We dressed up in ringmaster costumes – I crocheted top hats, circus performers – I also crocheted beards for us to be bearded ladies, we made friends of the other moviegoers and still keep in touch with some of them for other movie events, attended about 6 sing-a-longs and each experience was different and amazing.”
Daniel Sullivan, a 39-year-old IT professional, likes MoviePass because it helps him get out of the apartment. He tries to go at least three times every week, and often goes with his partner or brother.
MoviePass is making indifferent cinema-goers into fanatics
Interestingly, many MoviePass aficionados rarely went to the cinema before signing up for the service.
Kristie Pyle had not been to the cinema in three years before joined MoviePass at the end of March 2018. The 43-year-old North Carolina finance professional said it “had been so long that I needed to figure out how to use the kiosk.” In the less than two months since then, she’s seen 30 movies.
Jeff Jordan, a 25-year-old fire protection employee in Illinois, said he previously went about twice a year, and hated how expensive it was. Now he goes to between 9 to 12 movies a month. He’s seen 75 movies since signing up on October – costing MoviePass around $US750 (assuming a $US10 average ticket) while spending no more than $US80 on his subscription so far.
Elsie Militar, a 44-year-old media relations technician living in the Bay Area, also signed up in October 2017. She previously went to the movies 2 to 5 times a year. Since joining MoviePass, she’s seen 92 movies in eight months.
Alan Ling, a professor at the University of Vermont, has seen 129 movies since his first MoviePass movie (“Thor: Ragnarok”) in November 2017, and keeps track of them all on a Facebook page. He went to the cinema 2 or 3 times a year before getting MoviePass; now, he said, “I re organised my life around moviepass.”
The service is also popular with people with disabilities
MoviePass has also been a blessing for people with disabilities or access needs, offering a cheap activity that doesn’t require much physical exertion.
Tracey Trevino, a 55-year-old veteran who is retired due to disabilities, goes 2 to 3 times a week. “I had to quit working back in 2013 because I needed foot surgeries, I’ve had 5 so far […] and going to the movies was about all I could do for entertainment since I couldn’t really be on my feet while recovering,” she said. She’s been a member on-and-off since November 2013, back during a period when it cost $US30 a month, and has 491 movie ticket stubs in her collection.
A 31-year-old who asked not to be named and does not work due to disabilities joined two months ago. This person now goes around five times a week, and has seen 40 movies so far, they say.
Another customer didn’t go nearly as frequently as many power-users – once every week or two – but used it to bond with her father as he battled health issues. He was going through chemotherapy, and she bought them both passes: “I wanted to help him get his mind off the treatment. [MoviePass] was a great option because if we went to a movie but he started to feel unwell and needed to leave early we could do so without feeling guilty since it’s a single cost for the month.”
80% of MoviePass users watch fewer than 4 movies a month
MoviePass briefly experimented with limiting customers to seeing four movies a month – but it swiftly changed course, and the all-you-can eat (barring repeats) model remains in effect today. The company says most users aren’t power-users, however.
Of the service’s popularity among customers with disabilities, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told us: “While we don’t have any data to share related to members with disabilities, we are glad that we’re able to offer a service that provides them with an accessible entertainment experience without a price barrier.”
There is ongoing debate about the viability of MoviePass’ business. It argues it will be able to monetise its users’ data, and hopes to negotiate discounted ticket rates with the big cinema chains – but many investors remain unconvinced, and it is an incredibly popular short on Wall Street(essentially meaning investors are betting against its survival).
Its power-users are split. Some are bullish about the company’s prospects, and have even bought stock, but others are unsure how long it can keep on going. One customer asked to remain anonymous said he has deliberately reduced his viewings to around 6 movies a month “as I want [MoviePass] to survive.”
Michael Johnson, the investor, added: “of course, I struggle to understand their business model, but more than willing to take advantage of the insanity while it lasts.”
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