But then, this morning, I see this post on Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/moviepass-users-complain-about-peak-pricing-2018-7 and I realize I’m not alone. Then, I go looking on Reddit and guess what I find? This mega-thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/moviepass/comments/8yfh7t/peak_pricing_megathread and I realize I’m REALLY not alone. Turns out I was just ahead of the curve! So, back up this post goes.
So, it looks I’m going to be canceling Moviepass tomorrow. It was a nice ride while it lasted, but I think it’s definitely time to get off this train, and frankly, I’d suggest everyone do so as well because there some severe BULLSHIT going on. Here’s the deal…
Tonight, I went to see The Equalizer 2. I was looking forward to it because Denzel is still the man! It was a 9pm show at my local AMC theater. I frequently go there on Sunday nights for one of the last shows of the night specifically because I know, based on a lot of past experience there, that the place is going to be nearly empty, and I prefer watching movies with as few people there as possible. If you ever look through my Twitter history, you’ll find probably half a dozen tweets along the lines of “oh cool, I’m the only one in the theater again!”, or “oh look, someone just walked in late, I guess I won’t be the only one here this time!” I like it that way, and it’s all but guaranteed to be the case late on Sundays, and tonight was no exception: it was practically deserted!
(Side note: there has been more than once where I walked out as the credits rolled and I was LITERALLY the ONLY customer left! The lights were out and the final cleanup of the night was being done! So, if anyone who works there ever reads this I want to say I’M SORRY! I’m sorry you couldn’t go home early because of little ‘ole me!)
Anyway, I open the MoviePass app up in the parking like always, but guess what I see for the very first time?
Surge pricing lightning bolts! The red ones no less! And, very importantly, it was the case for all but one movie! Don’t believe me? Check it out:
I didn’t get a screenshot of every movie, so you’ll have to take my word for it: that Mr. Rogers movie was the ONLY ONE that didn’t have surge pricing (the only one of the movies I hadn’t already seen that is).
So, how much extra was Equalizer 2 going to cost me? $4.18. That’s not a lot obviously, and in fact if I just skipped buying my customary drink (I usually get one medium Coke Zero, and that’s it) it would have been a wash (well, considering the cost of soda there I’d actually have come out ahead a little bit, but I digress).
But, here’s my issue with this: IT. IS. ABSOLUTE. BULLSHIT.
At this point, I did something perhaps a little nuts: I went and counted exactly how many cars were in the parking lot. Fortunately, because of the way the theater is situated, the parking lot is pretty much separate from any other store’s parking lot around it, so much so that unless the theater AND all the stores are absolutely packed, you can be all but certain which cars are there for what. So, I counted… and there were exactly 46 cars there.
So, let’s think about this for a minute… if 40 of those cars are customers (seems reasonable that 6 are employees, at minimum), and if each car came with 4 people in it (also seems like a fair guess, maybe even on the high side) then we’re talking about 160 people in the entire movie theater. And given there was just about nobody there when I went in, I’d bet it was even fewer than that (which would also jive with my numerous past experiences there).
We’re talking about a movie theater with 12 screens, and each auditorium having at least 200 seats, the Big D ones a lot more (two of those), and maybe a few of the smaller ones more like 150. Hell, if we round DOWN, you’re talking about a movie theater that can hold probably 2,000 people in total, AT LEAST.
So, here’s where that BULLSHITI mentioned comes in: think about what MoviePass is trying to say here. They’re trying to say that in a theater that can hold 2,000 people, on a night when there is probably no more than 160 customers present, that ALL BUT ONE OF THE MOVIES BEING SHOWN was in such high demand that they had to invoke surge pricing.
B U L L S H I T
No logical way could be true. In fact, the only way it could make ANY sense is if EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER THERE was in the SAME movie – but then, only ONE of the movies should have had surge pricing, not effectively all of them.
In other words: MoviePass’s surge pricing is… say it with me… BULLSHIT! It’s not just movies in high demand, which I was willing to accept. Yeah, if I’m trying to see Infinity War on opening night and you tell me it’s in high demand, and you gotta charge me more, you know what? I’m cool with that. And it’s why I was willing, before tonight, to accept the idea of surge pricing. But that was before I knew MoviePass was going to play BULLSHIT games with it. When I thought there would be some legitimate reasoning behind it, I could accept it.
But that’s not what it is based on what I saw tonight. It just, simply, is BULLSHIT.
We all know MoviePass is too good to be true. Their “throw random shit against the wall and see what sticks” approach, which pretty much seems to be the entirety of their “business plan” at this point, we all pretty much know is dooming them to failure and it’s just a question of how long it takes for the inevitable collapse. So, most of us, certainly myself and my friends that I’ve talked to about it, have been going with the “we’ll ride this horse as long as we can” mentality. I bet that’s true for most of their customers.
But you know what? At some point, you gotta think that some principles are more important than any benefit you might get from MoviePass until it goes down the drain completely.
When MoviePass said I couldn’t see the same movie twice? Yeah, that pissed me off, but it’s not the end of the world. I still get enough benefit from it to accept that. Then they said I had to take a picture of my ticket stub. Kind of a pain, but okay, a fraud-fighting measure I suppose, I’ll accept it. Then they played games with pricing and plans, and I started feeling like maybe there’s a lack of scruples at play with them. But, truth be told, none of that impacted me directly so I figured okay, the benefit still outweighs any principles that may be offended. I’m starting to get uncomfortable, but not quite enough to drop them yet.
But, when I see them using this surge pricing in a way that is BLATANTLY dishonest, now it becomes about the principle of the thing, and that now carries more weight than any benefit I get from it. And, hey, do the math, I can STILL come out ahead with MoviePass even with surge pricing in play. But that no longer matters. Now, I feel like they’re taking advantage. I feel like they’ve played bait-and-switch games. I feel like their cheating me, honestly and I feel like they’ve been taking a mile for every inch I’ve given them. I certainly didn’t sign up for this surge pricing BULLSHIT.
But, mostly, it’s just that I’m not going to continue to give my money to a company who I now KNOW will play fast and loose with their own rules and who I now know will be outright DISHONEST. Up until tonight, I could justify everything they were doing, even if only barely, as trying to find a workable business model that would lead to sustainability. And, given the benefit I was deriving from them, that was something I wanted to see happen.
But now, after what I saw tonight, I’m frankly in a way almost going to be rooting for them to fail because that’s what dishonest companies deserve to have happen to them. I’m going to almost applaud the inevitable collapse because now I see what I’m actually dealing with. This isn’t just a company trying to find a way to survive and thrive; this is a company that is deceitful and will cheat to win.
So, I’m done. It was a nice ride while it lasted: I saw 44 movies with MoviePass since I signed up in September of last year. That’s an average of about four movies a month. I never kept track of costs, but that probably saved me a couple hundred bucks. And, given that I bought at least a drink most shows, the theater got some income they wouldn’t have gotten because of those 44 movies. I count only 15 that I would definitely have gone to see at full price, so the theater got some increased revenue any way you slice it. It was a good deal for everyone, me, the theater and theoretically MoviePass too, and I was totally onboard with that.
But, now, it’s over.
And it’s all because of MoviePass’s BULLSHIT.
UPDATED 7/27/2018: I originally posted this on July 23, and then took it down the following day. I did that based on a comment made to me by a friend of mine that had me thinking maybe I was wrong about this all. Well, turns out, five days later, that I definitely wasn’t. First, I tried to see another movie on Thursday night. Now, granted, it was Mission Impossible, and it was preview night, so I was kind of prepared for surge pricing, and I was right. However, the problem is that EVERY OTHER MOVIE was surging too… things like Jurassic, err, whatever the hell it is that’s Jurassic this week. Equalizer 2 as before, in other words: movies that definitely weren’t in high demand. I didn’t go counting cars this time, I just didn’t go at all.
However, I’ve decided something: I’m NOT going to cancel. Here’s the deal: MoviePass has pissed me off with this. They’ve basically been death by a thousand papercuts for a while, but the blood loss until this surge pricing (or peak pricing, whatever the hell it’s really called) wasn’t severe enough to cancel. Now, it is, but I’m still not going to. Basically, cancelling gets MoviePass off the hook. Remember that for anyone going to see 2-3 movies a month, they cost MoviePass money. So, cancelling helps them stop bleeding. Remaining a customer, and continuing to see movies, costs them money. In other words: it does more damage me sticking around then just leaving. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll go see a movie every Tuesday and Wednesday night, when surge pricing doesn’t seem to come into the picture and continue costing them money. I have a suspicion at some point it will come into effect those nights too and I’ll have no choice but to cancel.
Which brings me to my theory about what’s REALLY going on here: I don’t think this is about making ends meet per se, I think it’s a trick they’re playing to stay in business. I only have to see TWO movies a month to cost them money. The only way they’ll survive is if people see less movies than that, and that’s been their plan all along obviously: get enough subscribers who don’t use the service enough to balance out and eventually overtake those who do. How best to make that happen when the subscriber pool might dry up at some point? Get people to see less movies. How? Introduce surge pricing, and eventually get to a point where all but a VERY few shows are surging, and now customers effectively CAN’T use MoviePass as it was originally presented. Now, it becomes nothing but a ticket discounter… and yes, it still might make sense for a lot of customers, and the hope then is that the ones you lose, like me, who you sold a bill of goods to originally (unlimited) that leave is cancelled out by the NEW customers who are perfectly happy with a ticket discount service.
And hey, maybe that strategy will work. I’m not a businessman for a reason. But, they’ve got under my skin, so I’m going to do what I can to make sure it doesn’t work, and as near as I can figure, the best way to do that is to remain a customer and keep seeing as many movies a month as I can, keep costing them money. So, that’s my plan.