More than better seats, fancy food, and bigger screens, cheaper prices might be the best option to keep people headed to movie theaters. Yes, there are people willing to pay premium pricing to see the latest blockbusters in ultra-super-mega high definition with sound that’ll make their hearts get out of rhythm and seats that rumble, but in these increasingly difficult economic times, most people just want to see the Avengers do their thing without paying the cost of a therapist’s session to do so.
It’s a shame, then, that the service at the vanguard of potentially helping save consumers cash while getting them to experience more cinema is so bad at their job. MoviePass has missed more than they’ve hit so many times that they’re likely to ruin the idea of “movie theater subscription service” before the idea can really settle in as a viable alternative to the standard movie-going process. But it’s their latest round of shooting themselves in the foot that is perhaps most impressive.
The idea behind MoviePass is simple: You pay around $10 and in exchange you get to see one movie per day; the reality is more complex, but at its core it’s about paying one price in exchange for seeing one movie a day. But recently the service added what they call “peak pricing,” which means that if you really want to see a popular movie, you’re going to have to shell out a few more bucks to see it, or wait a few weeks for the hype to die down. It’s like Uber’s “surge pricing” except more arbitrary, because according to many MoviePass users over the weekend (here’s a sample thread worth reading), there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how the extra pricing worked, other than that all new releases at all times were hit with the extra charge.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the hustle MoviePass is going for here; the company is bleeding money, their parent company is seeing their stock drop, so things have to change. But it’s so embarrassing to see a company lie to the customers that have given them a chance. No one would be happy if they came out and said, “Starting on [x] date, there will be a fee applied to all films in their first or second week of release,” but at least they’d appreciate the straightforward honesty of them keeping it real. Instead they use banal corporate speak to try and muddy the water, as if the Internet doesn’t exist and word of mouth won’t spread.
Odds are, MoviePass is going to die, and while that’s a bummer for the company, it might be better for the industry in the long run. Consider them a sacrifice for a better world of going to the movies in the future. They had a good idea, but the truth is a middleman between the consumer and the theater isn’t the answer. Are there people willing to skip new releases to save money while also ducking out on social media for two weeks to avoid spoilers? Sure. Are there enough to do so to keep MoviePass in business? Probably not. But hey, MoviePass tried, and that counts for something, I guess.