In the face of Netflix and other formidable forces, I refuse to abandon the movie theater experience. The 20th Century Fox fanfare on the big screen makes my heart swell, the "Star Wars" crawl brings tears to my eyes and don't even get me started on how much better popcorn tastes when consumed in a plush red chair.
Frequent moviegoing is an expensive habit, so imagine my excitement when I discovered MoviePass, a service that charges $9.95 a month and allows you to see one film a day. That's cheaper than a single ticket in most major cities. The company now has more than 1.5 million subscribers and pays the theaters full price for each ticket, hoping to eventually make money by attracting studios as investors.
But MoviePass recently sparked a hullabaloo when it realized it would do just fine if it pulled out of 10 high-traffic AMC theaters in cities like Boston and Los Angeles. While one might assume it's because MoviePass bleeds money at popular locations, CEO Mitch Lowe attributed the decision to the company's desire to "strive for mutually-beneficial relationships." AMC executives have explicitly stated that the theater chain has no intention of sharing the admissions and concessions revenue that MoviePass claims it has had a hand in generating.
Basically, mom and dad are fighting about money again, and MoviePass subscribers are caught in the middle. I'm inclined to stick with the service amid this epic feud - seriously, Ryan Murphy , take notes - but won't deny that dropping theaters affects its overall value. So, in the spirit of fairness, here are some points to consider if you're on the fence about signing up.
- As of now, MoviePass still works at a good number of theaters.
If you live in a city like Boston, where the most accessible theater is one of the rejected 10, you're out of luck. Same goes for those of you who prefer ArcLight Cinemas or Landmark Theatres. But for moviegoers who are fortunate enough to live in areas like Washington, D.C., where MoviePass works at two AMC Loews theaters (Georgetown and Uptown), a Regal (Gallery Place) and the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market, it's worth the 10 bucks.
This especially applies when you want to see something like that "Jumanji" remake. Even though it continues to make box-office history, some of us hesitate to shell out more than $10 to see Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan buddy it up on screen. With MoviePass, you can swipe that magical card and it'll feel like you paid nothing to see it. (Full disclosure, I've heard the movie is actually quite good.)
You can see which theaters in your area accept MoviePass at https://www.moviepass.com/.
- You have to show up in person to get tickets - so you risk a movie selling out
After hearing folks at the office rave about a little movie called "The Post," I trekked across the city and got to an AMC around 2 p.m. to purchase a ticket. Surprise! Every showing of the film was sold out for the rest of the day. That was four separate showtimes. MoviePass doesn't let you purchase tickets online, which means you either have to get to the theater earlier in the same to purchase a ticket, or risk it and show up right before.
I wasn't about to waste an hour of travel, so I opted to see "The Greatest Showman" in apparent solidarity with our president, who also saw the circus flick that weekend after being denied "The Post." Yikes. I applaud the dancing, but Hugh Jackman deserved better.
The moral of this tragic tale is that, with MoviePass, you must always be prepared. Guess who's going to show up hours early to see "Black Panther"?
- It's great for solo moviegoers, but not so much if you prefer group outings.
There's so much to be said for seeing a movie alone. You can go whenever you feel like, focus entirely on the movie and form an opinion all on your own.
Solo moviegoing also prevents you from having to bring other people into that "Greatest Showman" scenario. Back in my pre-MoviePass days, two friends and I decided to see "Call Me by Your Name" together after months of waiting for it to hit theaters. A pair of us bought tickets online, and we arrived at the now-vintage MoviePass location of AMC Boston Common about 45 minutes early so our cardholding pal could purchase hers. Alas, it was sold out.
We ended up transferring our tickets to the next available showtime - thank you, AMC - and waited three hours in anticipation of Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet's gorgeous performances. It was worth it, but just make sure to let your friends know what the deal is ahead of time.
- MoviePass is another subscription you'll have to keep track of (or not).
How many subscription services have you signed up for? Netflix, Spotify ... hmm. Five? Six? You're probably forgetting one. I know a few people who get a new pair of printed socks mailed to them each month. MoviePass charges you automatically, which is convenient and good for budgeting. But this could work against you if you never use it or forget you even have it.
The weirder thing about MoviePass is that it also keeps track of you. Last summer it sold a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics, a data company that can draw information from MoviePass members. While the company doesn't plan to sell that user data to others, according to Wired, it can still use it to target movie promotion via the app or email. It's all very "Black Mirror."
- You can't use MoviePass on 3-D or IMAX movies.
The tickets are simply too expensive for the service to afford. For people like me, this might not be an issue. I haven't seen a 3-D movie since I watched glowing Na'vi warriors fly around on mountain banshees during "Avatar" and went home with a pounding headache.
But for people like Christopher Nolan, this could be a problem. If you didn't see "Dunkirk" in IMAX 70mm, did you even see it? Don't worry, the answer is yes.