Let’s start from the beginning…
In January of 2011, I received a pop up on my web browser promoting a future service that went by the name of Movie Pass. They claimed to be offering a service that would allow me to be able to pay a flat monthly fee, and in return I would be able to see unlimited films in the theater. It’s basically like Netflix, only instead of streaming films or having them sent to my mailbox, I could see them in the theater. I much as I go to the movies, this sounded like a dream come true. I entered my email for a chance to be entered into their beta program.
Almost a year had passed before I received any communication from them. Then in December of 2011, I received and email explaining that I had been selected to participate in their beta program and could sign up for one of three options:
1. Commit to an annual plan for $30 a month
2. Sign up for the three month plan for $40 a month
3. Pay $50 a month with no commitment
I immediately signed up for the annual commitment as I was already spending on average around $60 a month on just myself to go to the movies. The following day, I signed up for another plan that my wife or kids could use. It was not until after signing up however that I quickly learned of their limitations:
Limitation #1: I would only be allowed to see one film a day.
This was not cool as I most weekends I enjoy seeing back to back films. Doing so cuts down on my cost in gas and concessions.
Limitation #2: I was only able to see a film one time. No repeat viewings were allowed.
I clearly intended on seeing films such as ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ multiple times, so now I had to stop and consider if I screwed up by committing to a year with Movie Pass when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my money’s worth since I could not see repeat screenings, or multiple films on any given day.
Now I have always had a knack for taking advantage of my local cineplex, so I started to try and figure out how I could get around these restrictions without doing something as blatant as theater hopping. First you will need a little insight on things worked during the beta phase.
In order to go go see a movie, I had to log on to the Movie Pass website and then I would be given a list of theaters near me that accepted Movie Pass. I would then select the movie and showtime I wanted to see from one of those theaters and print out a Hollywood Movie Money voucher.
You guys have probably seen these before as sometimes movie studios will include them with the purchase of certain Blu-rays or DVDs. Once printed, I had twenty four hours to use the voucher, otherwise it would become invalid.
So getting around the first limitation was pretty easy. If I knew I wanted to see two films over the weekend, I would just print a voucher and take it up a couple of days ahead of time and buy an advance ticket. There was another obstacle however. The movie voucher clearly states that it can be only used for the movie you selected, and has the title of it in big bold letters. To bypass this, I would simply save the voucher, modify it with Photoshop, and print it with the title of the film I want to actually see. This is also how I was able to get around the second limitation of only being able to see a film once. If I wanted to see Avengers for a second or third time, all I needed to do from that point is print a voucher for a film a had no intention of seeing (usually something with the name ‘Madea’ in the title), and change the name on it.
Eventually I realized that I didn’t even need to print these vouchers, and could simply show them to the theater on my iPhone. Once I discovered that, I just claimed the tickets on my iPad and used an image editing program, then texted the modified ticket to my iPhone. Another way manipulating the tickets came in handy was that I could get tickets days in advance and get four tickets to the same movie off of my two accounts. I was saving even more money than I even anticipated. Another great thing I figured out was that with some theaters that had their own online ticketing service (not Fandango), I could pre-buy tickets online once I figured out what information on the voucher to enter in the payment fields. This came in handy whenever we went to Austin as I could pre-purchase tickets for shows at the Alamo Drafthouse and Violet Crowne up to a week in advance.
But there were two REALLY bad things about Movie Pass…
Issue One: Every time I took my voucher to the box office, the cashier inevitably looked at me like it was written in Latin. It took on average of five minutes to get my ticket because no one ever seemed to know how to enter them into the credit card system, and even when people did know how to do it, it’s a timely process as they have to manually punch in the credit card info. It got to the point where I would make a separate trip to the theater when I knew it wasn’t going to be busy just so I wouldn’t be the hold up during their rush hour.
Issue Two: Many theaters did not like the idea of Movie Pass, and even felt that they were a threat to the industry (which to me makes no sense when you stop and think about it). For that reason, many of the major chains stopped taking the Hollywood Movie Money vouchers, so if you lived in a smaller city, you might be out of luck if you only had an AMC and a Regal, as both of those chains were not accepting them.
Movie Pass launched to the public in October of 2012 with a completely revamped way for their members to retrieve their tickets.
Say goodbye to reserving tickets at home and printing vouchers. I received an email from Movie Pass letting me know I would be receiving a debit card in the mail and I would now use that to buy my tickets. That was AWESOME! No more getting stalled at the box office every time I needed to buy tickets. Then the bad news came. In order to use Movie Pass, you have to have a smart phone that has the Movie Pass app running on it. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
1. You go to the theater and sign on to the app, then check in to the film you want to see.
2. The funds are transferred to your card and the tickets must be purchased within 30 minutes, or the money will be removed from your account.
3. You have to be physically at the theater with your phone AND your card to do this. The card actually has a GPS component that enforces you having to do this. The reason being is so that you can’t let someone borrow your card and use your account. You would have to let them borrow your card AND your phone, and most people nowadays just probably are not going to do that.
What are the pros of the new system?
There are three huge pros to the way you receive your ticket now:
1. Buying your tickets is now as fast as if you are buying them with your credit card.
2. Many more theaters accept Movie Pass now. They only theaters that don’t accept movie pass are theaters that don’t accept Discover cards.
3. Even though Movie Pass still says that you can’t see the same movie twice, they have no way to enforce that as of now. You can check in to any movie you have not seen yet and simply purchase a ticket for the film you actually want to see.
What are the cons of the new system?
1. The biggest con for me is that I have to go to the theater to purchase the ticket, which means I am no longer able to purchase tickets online in advance when I go to Austin, or any other city for that matter. I can still see two shows in one day, but I need to make an extra trip up to the theater and buy my tickets in advance in order to do so.
2. There are technical glitches still to be worked out. Sometimes your phone won’t recognize that you are standing right next to theater and not allow you to check in and claim your tickets. If this happens, you can call their support line and they can manually reserve your tickets for you, but this can be a timely process. If you don’t show up early enough, you could end up missing some of the movie you are going to see.
3. This isn’t even a big con for me, but it may be for others. In the beta phase, 3D movies were included, but now they are not. I despise 3-D, so it’s all good as far as I’m concerned.
The bottom line, is Movie Pass for you?
In 2012, I used Movie Pass 148 times in a calendar year. If you multiply that times the cost of a ticket for a movie showing at night, that comes out to be $1406 I spent just on tickets. Subtract the $359.88 I spent for an annual membership, and I saved $1046.12. In an average year before I had Movie Pass, I would see anywhere between 80 and 90 films and spend around $600 (the number being so low because I would see matinees whenever possible). So I am seeing close to double the films I would normally see, and spending $140 less than I normally would. That’s as close to a no-brainer as they come in my book. I don’t have to worry about just seeing matinees now and can see a night show without feeling guilty about spending the extra money on the ticket. I can go see anything I want to and not worry about wasting money, just my time if it ends up being a clunker. I can also take risks and see films that I might have otherwise never given a chance, because at the end of the day, I’m actually losing money not to use it as much as I can.
If you are like me, then yes, you should be using Movie Pass. If you see two movies a month, then it’s not for you. My guess it that most readers of this site don’t fall into that category however. If you have any more specific questions about Movie Pass, please feel free to leave your questions in the comments section and I’ll be sure to answer them the best I can.