MoviePass Adjusts Pricing For Beta Subscribers

By J. Sperling Reich | March 5, 2014 2:32 pm PST
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Just last week we wrote about how the unlimited moviegoing subscription service MoviePass benefited from being agile and developing their business in an iterative fashion. This week the company is proving just how willing they are to roll out changes to their service in an effort to build a lasting business.

This morning some MoviePass subscribers awoke to find an email from the company informing them that the price of the service was going up to USD $35 per month. To date MoviePass has charged subscribers based on where they lived and the average price of tickets at nearby theatres. Pricing levels ranged from USD $19 to USD $35. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a MoviePass subscriber living 30 miles from the center of Los Angeles (a.k.a. the suburbs) and currently pay USD $25.

However, that won’t be what I pay come April. I was one of those who received today’s email, thanking me for “continued loyalty and support”, reminding me that I was part of a select group “invited into MoviePass’s beta service” and then going on advise me of the following:

Since joining, you have been enjoying the service at a discounted rate which was set to expire at the end of your annual contract. On your next billing cycle, we will need to adjust your monthly rate to the retail price in your area of $35.

Initially I was taken aback by this 40% increase in the cost of MoviePass’ subscription price. That was until I did a quick survey of ticket prices at theatres within 10 miles of my home. The cost of tickets to a matinee, when I usually go to the cinema, ranges between USD $7 and USD $9. However, tickets for evening showings went as high as USD $15 and averaged roughly USD $13. That would mean a subscriber would have to see roughly five matinees or three evening screenings before breaking even on their monthly MoviePass subscription fee.

By noon today I had received more than half a dozen emails from our readers inquiring about the fee hike. Thus, I quickly composed an email to Stacy Spikes, founder and CEO of MoviePass with a few questions about the announcement. I was confident that he would respond fairly quickly, as is characteristic of Spikes who is a hands on manager if ever I’ve seen one.

According to Spikes the monthly rate is increasing only for those subscribers in the lower tiers for their geographic area. “We tested multiple price levels and some were in lower tier. The cost has always been $35,” he explained referring to the pricing model during their ongoing beta period. “We tested USD $19.99 and USD $24.99. We allowed members to stay at that level for a year. There has not been an overall price increase.”

In other words, I was among a very early group of subscribers who joined MoviePass during a time when different pricing experiments were being conducted. It’s 16 months since I first subscribed, and though the service is still in beta, the pricing threshold tests are over and all subscribers are being reset to the rate applicable to their locality.

A couple of readers wanted to know why theatres at which they had once been able to use the MoviePass are no longer a part of the service. I had noticed this as well. When Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas opened in Westlake Village it appeared in the MoviePass mobile app, though recently disappeared entirely. My guess was that, much like 3D and IMAX showings the theatres USD $21 ticket prices were simply too prohibitive.

“We don’t have luxury/dine-in theaters in our system at this time,” said Spikes confirming my thinking, before going on to reference the theatre near me. “It was the Mann Westlake Village 8 prior, but we do not have Cinepolis to the best of our knowledge.”

Since we’re getting personal, I’d like to make an open suggestion to MoviePass. It is one specific to those movie lovers, like myself, who might have said goodbye to their twenties (or thirties), and are now juggling a combination of children, families and work responsibilities. We love the “unlimited” nature of the company’s service, even if we never intend on putting it to the test, since we find it hard to see three movies in a month, let alone evening or primetime weekend showings. Why not create a pricing tier for casual moviegoers? Maybe a tier in which subscribers could only go to matinees and showings on weekdays.

The fitness center I belong to has that kind of restricted, less expensive plan; membership provides access before 9:00 am and after 8:00 pm.

At USD $35 a month, I’m uncertain whether it’s worth it for me to maintain my subscription to MoviePass. Given my matinee moviegoing trends, I’d have to see at least four movies a month to make it worth the fee. On the other hand, a lower priced tier at USD $25 per month that might have more limitations that fit my lifestyle and schedule, well that’s a no-brainer. Especially if it’s setup in such a way where there is even the slightest possibility of breaking even on the subscription. Like my gym membership, it will probably be used less in reality than I originally plan, but there is always the hope that I can one day achieve its true monetary value. Possibly even lose a few pounds too (with my gym membership, not MoviePass).

According to previous conversations with Spikes, I know this type of tiering is something MoviePass would like to offer. He reiterated as much in his email. “We are still having conversations with exhibitors about this,” said Spikes. “It’s an ongoing dialog with a lot of moving parts as you can imagine. Keep you posted on that.”

And likewise, we’ll keep our readers posted as well. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to get the most out of my MoviePass subscription. A side-note to the exhibitors who Spikes is referencing… guess how much more refreshments I’ve eaten at matinee screenings over the past year while using my MoviePass subscription? Since I don’t have to pay for the movie ticket directly, I eat way more than I ever used to. I’m not exactly sure how much more, but the scale at my gym refuses to stop reminding me.

J. Sperling Reich