MoviePass’ old stale song and dance

In the beginning, MoviePass’ popularity rose quickly due to its unlimited $9.99/month plan that allowed users to watch a movie a day. Sometime in the 2018 summer, the company stopped the plan since it was bleeding cash and on the verge of bankruptcy. Of course, when you buy goods at retail prices and sell them to your customers at wholesale prices, you are doomed to empty your own bank account.

Fast forward to now, after several changes in its plans, MoviePass announced the comeback of its unlimited plan, with some changes.

Source: MoviePass

The plan is $5 more expensive than its previous version. If subscribed to an annual plan, users can get the plan at $9.95. However, the thing that caught my attention is the text below the “Get Started” button. It reads: “*Your movie choices may be restricted due to excessive individual usage which negatively impacts system-wide capacity. See Terms of Use section 2.5 for further details”.

Curious, I went to the Terms of Use section and found out a couple of other points that should be called out

2.4. MoviePass reserves the right to change or modify the Service or subscriptions at any time and in its sole discretion, including but not limited to applicable prices, without prior notice. MoviePass reserves the right to change the rules of movie-going attendance and ticket availability to subscribers in connection with the Service at any time. 

2.5. MoviePass makes no guarantee on the availability to any particular theater, showtime, or title that is presented in our app. MoviePass ticket inventory may vary from specific theater ticket inventory. MoviePass reserves the right to adjust its inventory to maintain fair access and usage to its full customer base. MoviePass may utilize its proprietary data and algorithms to impose restrictions on individual users based on their location, day of movie, time of movie, title, and the individual user’s historical usage. This means that MoviePass has the right to limit the selection of movies and/or the times of available movies should your individual use adversely impact MoviePass’s system-wide capacity or the availability of the Service for other subscribers.

2.6 You agree to choose the movie title, theater, and showtime up to no more than three (3) hours prior to the selected showtime, through the MoviePass App.

Source: MoviePass Terms of Service

To be fair, writing an encompassing Terms and Conditions text is a standard in the service business. I wouldn’t be surprised if MoviePass had the same terms one year ago. But how could one person “negatively impacts system-wide capacity”? MoviePass has this clause in place to leave some room to wriggle itself out of blockbuster movies that attract moviegoers and inflict losses. Furthermore, it is different now than it was a year ago.

I personally used the original unlimited plan in the last month before it was terminated. I could book any showtimes at any hour that I liked. There was no restriction on the selection of movies. Nonetheless, MoviePass started to remove the unlimited part of the plan and added restrictions on showtimes and movie selection. It’s very likely that they would do it again this time. Plus, users can only book movies 3 hours before the showtime. It’s very limiting and didn’t exist one year ago.

If you call a plan uncapped, yet have some unpleasant surprised in store for users, odds are that users will be greatly disappointed. Disappointed users are not what you want in the subscription business, especially given that the business model is inherently flawed in the first place and that there is great competition in AMC or other streaming services. There seems to be ample ingredients for another failure by MoviePass.

What could go wrong this time?

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