The sheen might be wearing thin on Movie Pass.
I’ve been a champion of the service since I joined last year. It’s an excellent affordable way to see films for anyone. Lately though, I’ve started to see the cracks system and my experience yesterday has left me wondering what my future with the service will be once my annual membership is up.
Yesterday afternoon I took a quick run to my local AMC Theater to grab a ticket for the 7PM showing of Red Sparrow only to find all showings blocked. It wasn’t a special type of screening. No Dolby or IMAX. It seemed strange. It’s opening night of a film starring one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood right now and Movie Pass isn’t supporting the screening? I could get tickets to Death Wish with no problem at all but Red Sparrow was on lock down.
Why was this? I ended up buying a ticket and heading back to work. I shot off a frustrated tweet about it and got the following response:
As we continue to enhance our service for everyone, certain inventory may not be available at all times, and the only place all of this is reflected in real-time is in the app. Please make sure to always check the app before heading to the theaters!
— MoviePass (@MoviePass) March 1, 2018
No talk of a glitch, which some ravenous defenders of the service try to claim. I looked into it further and saw this was not an isolated incident but one happening across the country. A major Hollywood studio release was blocked out by what has rapidly become one of the biggest suppliers of movie tickets, and yet a smaller critically panned remake is readily available.
Along with this, the service is reinstating their requirement that you scan in your ticket after you purchase it or face being blocked from using your membership at all.
Coupled with Movie Pass’ recent removal of certain theaters from its service, is this black out of a major film on its opening night another attempt by the company to show of its influence over ticket inventory to strong-arm theater chains into submitting to their demands?
Coupled with the new changes, I think it might be.
Red Sparrow is the perfect experiment. It isn’t a massive blockbuster like a Marvel film so the reaction to not being able to use the service to see it on opening night might not be a huge din. Except that it is turning into one.
I wouldn’t expect the same issue to happen next week with the release of A Wrinkle In Time, but I would expect it to happen again. Or maybe it will happen, maybe Movie Pass’ hubris is growing to the point where they will take a risk like that to get what they want from these theaters.
It also feels a bit like the service is testing its own users to see just how they will react to this sort of situation. Will they take the bait and go see a movie they didn’t plan on seeing or will they turn around and leave?
Movie Pass: New Policy not User Friendly
With the new policy, if Movie Pass tries this again you can’t use the “Unlisted Showtime” or the already disallowed checking into another film trick, because you will have to show them your ticket stub before you can use the pass again. So when faced with this next time what do you do? Do you go see one of the movies Movie Pass is allowing you to go see, pay for the movie you really want to see, or simply go home and watch Netflix?
What happens when the service starts releasing films they have a financial stake in? Are we to expect that on opening nights of their own films that we won’t have access to any other titles out that night? Based on this experience, this might be a true worry.
For me, a company doing this type of bait and switch strong -arm nonsense isn’t cool. It’s still a great deal but I am not comfortable being used as a tool to manipulate other companies, especially when inconvenienced by the attempts. If you want to bully theater chains into submission, fine but don’t do it at my and other user’s expense.
“Unlimited movies at theaters nationwide” is the promise of Movie Pass. Except, it seems, when they want to play hardball with theaters, or perhaps want to steer people towards a film they may have financial interests in.
“We occasionally remove some films from our ticketing inventory in some markets for a limited time, similar to how we organically promote films in certain markets to better understand member behavior. As part of this ongoing testing, we have stepped up our efforts to remind members to always double-check the MoviePass app to confirm that their preferred showtimes and theaters are available for the movie they are planning to see before they leave for the theater.”
So, from that it seems that this was entirely intentional and not at all a glitch in the MP Matrix. How reliable can we consider Movie Pass to be when this type of behavior is to be expected?