Update 4/20/18: MoviePass has updated their terms of service, which is explained below.
A few months ago I wrote Movie Pass: What is it (and is it too good to be true). At the time I wrote that piece I didn’t actually have MoviePass but I had ordered one and was waiting for it to arrive.
Well, it arrived and I’ve since used it for two glorious movie filled months! For those not in the know:
When I bought MoviePass it was a subscription service where you pay a monthly fee (usually $9.99) and then you can use your MoviePass card to see one free movie every day but they have recently updated their terms of service. New subscribers are limited to one movie per week and a maximum of four movies per month. If you are a new subscriber you also receive a free subscription to iheartradio all access.
Wait, seriously? That sounds too good to be true.
Yes. Seriously. MoviePass is totally legit! Since I received my MoviePass card in the mail on Friday, February 16th, here are the movies I’ve seen with it:
Ready Player One
Pacific Rim 2
A Quiet Place
I even kept track of how much each ticket would have cost had I not been using MoviePass - $126. I actually bought a full year subscription which gave me a discount ($7.95 per month) and a one time sign up fee of $20. So my total cost up front was approx. $120. Alas, that deal is no longer available. The new deal is nice but just not as good as those of us folk who have subscribed for a while.
I have now made my money back and still have another ten months on my subscription.
But you don’t have to pay all that money up front. You can sign up for the monthly subscription at $9.95 per month and cancel any time. But you should know if you cancel you can’t sign up for MoviePass for nine months.
But, wait - how is MoviePass sustainable?
Fair question! The average ticket price across America is somewhere in the $8.50 range so if a typical MoviePass customer attends the cinema twice per month - MoviePass loses money! And they have been losing money this last quarter claiming a $150 million loss. If that sounds like a lot of money to you (it does to me) that doesn't seem to phase the CEO of movie pass who says that they have enough start up money to operate well into 2019 when they expect to be profitable. (Of course, what else is the CEO going to say?) I guess I am reminded of Amazon - which lost money for a staggering six years in a row before turning a profit. I don't understand how that's possible but there it is.
So, how does MoviePass plan to survive?
Well, they've already raised the money so they're not going anywhere - just yet.
Second, MoviePass has 2 million subscribers. Third - MoviePass is the only company that can tell theaters exactly who and when people are going to the movies. This is valuable information for theater chains to have and it has led studios to pay MoviePass to advertise specific films through the MoviePass app.
Finally, MoviePass will sell your data in some situations but they are very open about it on their website saying,
“Except where outlined in this policy or otherwise communicated to you, we will not sell, rent or disclose your personal information to third parties without notifying you of our intent to do so. In such an event, Users will be notified in advance, giving you the opportunity to prevent your personal information from being shared.”
Finally, concessions. MoviePass, as of yet, does not get a cut of concessions but they are certainly pursuing that option. It is no secret that theater chains make the overwhelming majority of their money selling concessions. For example, that $12 bucket of popcorn you buy at the theater cost the theater chain about five cents. That, my friend, is a lot of profit.
And if MoviePass can demonstrate that it is driving customers to the theaters, customers that would not normally attend - why not cut them in? I am proof positive that MoviePass is driving me to the theater. And I am proof positive that I will NOT go to a theater that does not accept MoviePass.
Of the thirteen movies I have seen with MoviePass I bought concession twice. Which, to be honest, is probably unusually low for a typical consumer. I suspect the average cinema attendee buys concessions closer to fifty percent of the time. Maybe higher.
MoviePass has already shown the theater chains that it is driving about 5% of moviegoers to the theater but when MoviePass promotes a specific film that percentage jumps up to 20%.
Studios and theater chains are taking notice. MoviePass currently has approx. 2 million subscribers but if they can get that number up to four or five million that will be a game changer for them.
What about their lousy customer service?
Yeah, I read all about that too. When MoviePass jumped from a few hundred thousand subscribers to 1.5 million (in the span of about a month) they had serious delays in meeting demand. I mean, they still have to produce and ship an actual card to your house. It’s not just an app.
They just didn’t have the manpower to keep up with the sudden demand. They also didn’t have the manpower to respond to emails and phone calls.
Mitch Lowe, the CEO of MoviePass sat down with CNN money and discussed this very problem. Basically he was like, “Yeah, our customer service sucked for a while but we’re working on it.”
And they did. I signed up for MoviePass and recieved my card in about a week. It takes me all of fifteen seconds to use the app and check in to the theater and access my free movie. The only minor hoops you have to jump through:
These are very minor hoops and I have not had a single issue with MoviePass. It is a totally legit service and I will use it until the end of days!
To learn more about MoviePass and / or to sign up for the service, visit their site here.
Update 4/20/18: MoviePass has updated their terms of service. If you purchased a MoviePass before today's date you continue to receive your one movie a day plan. If you purchase a MoviePass starting today, their new plan allows one free movie per week (total of four per month) and comes with a free three month subscription to iheartradio all access. This is still a great deal but, sadly, not the awesomely phenomenal deal I wrote about when I put this story up last week. With the new change I would recommend you purchase the month to month plan and receive the free iheartradio subscription. You will be billed for the first three months and then billed quarterly. Hold off on buying the full year subscription. But for now - at $9.95 a month for one movie a week MoviePass remains a good deal!
Movie Pass has been around for a few years but I’m just now catching on. It started out as a monthly subscription for $50 per month and with it you could use your Movie Pass card to see unlimited movies at your local theater. And by “unlimited” I mean one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day. Most of your local theaters, including some of the big chains (AMC), accept Movie Pass.
It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t really catch on. So it took Movie Pass almost two years to get about 20,000 subscribers -- mainly, die-hard cinephiles.
Well, back in August that all changed when Movie Pass dropped the monthly subscription fee to $9.95 per month with the same deal: most of your local theaters accept Movie Pass, and you can now see one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day.
Suddenly, Movie Pass is a lot more appealing, and since the August price drop, added 1.5 million subscribers, including me. I have only just signed up and have not even received my Movie Pass card yet. But when I do and begin to use it, I’ll write a follow up and let you know what’s what. But for now, after reading up on Movie Pass for a few days, here is the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: It will actually save you a lot of money … if you use it.
CNN reports that the average cost of a movie ticket across the country is roughly $9, according to the trade organization National Association of Theatre Owners, which means you need to use Movie Pass about twice per month in order to save money. Obviously, if you see more than two movies at the theater per month you will save even more money. I usually see a movie once per week at about $10-$12 per movie. Which means an annual Movie Pass subscription will save me approx. $300 per year.
I like this deal already.
Here’s exactly how it works.
Okay, I see a few minor hurdles. You need the App, you need the internet, and you have to be within approximately 100 yards of the movie theater you are attending. These hurdles seem minor to me. But how is this sustainable? Movie Pass CEO Mitch Lowe had an interview with CNNMoney and answered this is exact question.
"MoviePass is kind of a movie insurance program. Our service is really low because we are going to use our understanding of you as a customer to be able to give you relevant suggestions that you might find valuable in your life. We might say there's a great restaurant across the street from the movie. If you go over there and show them your card, you're going to get a free appetizer."
Ah hah! There’s the rub! They sell user data to third parties to make money. Some might be bothered by the privacy concern this raises. Me -- not so much. If Movie Pass notices I watch all the sci-fi movies I can shake a stick at and then offers me Blu-ray, sci-fi movies and/or sci-fi soundtracks, I might be interested.
But then again, I might not. I don’t really buy concessions at the movie theater, so Movie Pass might lose a lot of money -- on me. But Movie Pass is counting on the “gym membership model,” in that folks might binge at first but eventually keep paying the monthly subscription for something they hardly use.
Plus, Movie Pass is negotiating with theater chains for a sales percentage of concessions, since that’s where movie theaters make the majority of their money, and Movie Pass claims they are bringing people back to the theaters. (No, seriously, did you know that it costs a movie theater about four cents to make that large bag of popcorn that you just bought for $8?).
Movie Pass says that one in 35 movie theater customers are now using Movie Pass, and that number is rapidly increasing. It seems like fair leverage to get a tiny fraction of a percentage point for concessions. With the explosion in subscribers that Movie Pass has had in the last six months I expect (well, I hope) it doesn’t go anywhere soon.
The Bad: In order to get the best deal you have to pay for the full year membership - up front.
So, at $7.95 per month, plus a $19.95 one time processing fee you will be charged up front: $115.35.
Hrmmm. That’s a little obnoxious. But if you’re thinking, “Ah-hah! They’re going to grab your money and run!” Well, I too thought that for a moment. But then I saw their press release where they partnered with Fandor, which is a legit independent movie website (you should check it out) where they have some pretty great programing. I’ll reprint the full press release below.
The Ugly: Their customer service sucks. Like, seriously.
Via Movie Pass CEO’s very own mouth, he admits that the company didn’t expect to suddenly expand from 20,000 subscribers to 300,000 subscribers to one million and then, less than one month after reaching one million subscribers, exploding to up to two million subscribers. Their customer service department wasn’t able to keep up with their growth. Costumer service emails or calls went unanswered for months and months. He’s very aware of the problem and he speaks about it candidly in the CNNMoney interview linked above.
And, of course, they can print and mail cards to you only so fast. Customers are told to expect their Movie Pass card in five to seven business days, but it sounds as if the wait is more like two to four weeks. I find this annoying, but not so annoying that I will be passing up this deal.
The Final Skinny: Sign me up.
Movie Pass was a good deal at $10 a month. Movie Pass + Fandor is a really good deal at $7.95 per month (but remember, that’s $115 up front). I suspect Movie Pass is right - people aren’t going to use the Movie Pass card as much as they expect. But I bloody well will!
Keep in mind, the Movie Pass + Fandor for $115 up front is only a limited time offer. If you don’t want to pay the full up front fee - wait until the limited offer is up and Movie Pass will return to a $9.95 per month deal. There will still be a processing fee of $20 but then your first charge will only be $30 for month one, $10 for month two, etc, etc.
Either way, I signed up. I have to wait a few weeks for my Movie Pass card, but I’ve downloaded the App and plan to start watching Fandor films tonight.
As a final note, you may cancel your Movie Pass subscription at any time, but then will not be allowed to re-subscribe for nine months.
To learn more about Movie Pass and / or sign up visit their site here.
The Movie Pass / Fandor Partnership Press Release:
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MoviePass™, the nation's premier movie-theater subscription service and a majority-owned subsidiary of Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: HMNY) (“HMNY”), and Fandor®, the streaming service with the largest collection of independent films, documentaries, international features and shorts, are introducing a new annual subscription plan. This new MoviePass subscription plan will allow movie-goers to visit the theater every day for a year, and have access to the full Fandor content library for a year, for just under $116.
This new annual offer lowers the MoviePass monthly price from $9.95 to $7.95 and is coupled with an annual Fandor subscription. This combined offer is back after testing a limited time run in November 2017; it is now being reintroduced as a limited time offer nationwide.
“MoviePass is not only a phenomenon in the entertainment industry, but it has sparked a movement, now two million people strong,” said Ted Farnsworth, Chairman and CEO of HMNY. “With this new offer, we can make the movement even more accessible to movie-goers. I believe our annual subscribers will become influential movie consumers and an amazing asset and bellwether for the film industry as a whole.”
"Fandor is excited to be part of the disruptive wave redefining how audiences consume entertainment, making a broad range of movies available to our movie-loving subscribers," said Larry Aidem, President and CEO of Fandor. "We look forward to continued collaborations with MoviePass in the coming year."
MoviePass presently drives more than 5% of the total nationwide box office and continues to grow contribution as new subscribers join.
“We’re thrilled to continue innovating and reinvigorating the film and movie theater industries with MoviePass and Fandor,” said Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass. “With more than two million MoviePass subscribers, and new ones joining every day, it’s clear that this is a tool moviegoers need and want. This new offer allows us to continue to reach more subscribers.”
Subscribers who sign up for this new offer will be billed $115.35 ($7.95 a month + $19.95 processing fee), and will receive one full year of MoviePass and one full year of unlimited streaming from Fandor.
Long before talkies, music was making movies better. It still is. What would Charlie Chaplin’s “Oceana Roll Dance” in The Gold Rush be without music, or Johnny Depp’s depiction in Benny and Joon for that matter? A more contemporary example would be how Daft Punk’s soundtrack for Tron: Legacy helped make “The Grid” a very real place for moviegoers. That said, here are the 10 best uses of music in movies, based on the lasting effect the music had in the movie and beyond the movie, the popular and critical success of the music and the legacy left.
This one might not be on a lot of people’s lists, but the first time I saw Mark Wahlberg, Tom Jane and John C. Reilly attempt to steal from a coked out Alfred Molina to the sound of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” while a silent, house boy tossed exploding firecrackers around the room, I was mesmerized. It’s one of the most uncomfortable situations ever recorded, and the song makes the scene’s mise-en-scène a must-see.
I used to think Rudy’s struggle to realize his dream made me cry every time I watched him succeed, but I’ve discovered the crescendo of the music when Rudy sacks the Georgia Tech quarterback has more of an effect than the images. I get emotional just listening to the score for Angelo Pizzo’s football masterpiece, and I’m not the only one. The music is now blasted at the stadium in South Bend during Fighting Irish football games. That adoption of the Rudy score from fiction and application in reality makes it one of the best uses of music in movies.
Like the theme from Rudy, the theme from Rocky is blasted at Philadelphia Eagles games (and practiced by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). It is immediately recognizable by almost anyone. The song features both uplifting highs and terrifying lows -- mirroring the conflict of Rocky’s life -- in and out of the ring. “Gonna Fly Now” was nominated for the 1977 Oscar for Best Original Song, but fell to Barbra Streisand’s “A Star is Born” from the movie of the same name. It hasn’t come close to becoming the pop culture icon that “Gonna Fly Now” has. The Rocky franchise is responsible for creating two iconic songs, and ranking which is more recognizable is problematic. People probably associate the music of both songs with the Rocky movies equally, but some couldn’t give you the title of “Gonna Fly Now.” Everyone knows “Eye of the Tiger.” Most of Rocky III was about Apollo helping Rocky get his eye of the tiger back after Mick dies. Sylvester Stallone should be glad Queen denied his request to use their song “Another One Bites the Dust” for Rocky III. While the song would have been fitting given the beating Rocky takes and then gives Clubber Lang, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” somehow cut through the cheese to become a movie classic. It even spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and was the second-best single of 1982 behind Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” winning Survivor its only Grammy Award. The song was also nominated for the 1983 Academy Award for Best Original Song and has become the anthem of workout movie montages. You can’t even make a workout movie montage using another song without it being parodied with “Eye of the Tiger” laid over the top anymore. South Park went with Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best,” but even that was originally written by Allee Willis and Rocky’s Bill Conti for Rocky III, only to be replaced by “Eye of the Tiger.” “You’re the Best” got its chance to make movie history when Rocky director John Avildsen decided to use it in Karate Kid. It didn’t make this list, however.
The best synchronized dance scene ever shot had more than the music to thank, but the music choice was so good that it actually influenced the shooting of the scene. The scene was shot during the Von Steuben Day Parade and on another Saturday in Chicago that saw more than 10,000 people attend thanks to radio stations inviting people to take part in the John Hughes film. Several of the people seen dancing in the scene, including the construction worker and the window washer, originally had nothing to do with the film. They were simply dancing to the music being played, and John Hughes found it so funny that he told the camera operators to record it. Those natural actions helped make Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the highest grossing film Hughes directed, with an adjusted gross of nearly $170 million.
Written by Hal Davis and Burt Bacharach, the song won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Song, as did the original score. It makes for one of the most iconic movie montages ever in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The song is so great, it was one of the few redeeming moments of the Spider-man 2 movie. When a song can make a bad movie better, the song is objectively great.
No song is likely more often associated with a movie than Hamlisch’s version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Like a younger generation associates “Gonna Fly Now” with Rocky, and an even younger generation “Eye of the Tiger” with Rocky III, most people aware of The Sting can’t hear “The Entertainer” without thinking The Sting is on television somewhere. But unlike “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger,” which were written specifically for movies and released as the movie did, Joplin’s “The Entertainer” debuted 71 years before The Sting was released. Hamlisch had a good year in 1974. He won the Academy Award for Original Song Score or Adaptation for The Sting as well as the Oscars for Original Dramatic Score and Original Song for The Way We Were -- another Robert Redford movie.
This gem written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Disney’s Pinocchio in 1940 was so popular it became the official song of The Walt Disney Company and accompanies the Disney logo prior to any Disney movie. My favorite rendition is performed by actor/comedian Harland Williams in RocketMan, who does a spot-on impersonation of Jiminy Cricket.
The best opening credits ever recorded have The Bee Gees and John Travolta to thank. Saturday Night Fever producer Robert Stigwood even asked The Bee Gees to change the name of the song to match the movie. The Bee Gees declined because there were already too many songs with “Saturday” in the title -- including Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright” (For Fighting), the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” and Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park.” Saturday Night Fever didn’t need the name of the song changed to reach a massive audience, grossing over $237 million worldwide on a $3 million budget. It made back its budget and then some in its opening weekend.
The scenes of Beetlejuice featuring Belafonte’s music are the two best scenes in the movie. The “Day-O” scene couldn’t have been done better using any other song. The lip syncing to “Day-O” in Beetlejuice is the reason why it’s such a popular chant at baseball and basketball games. I’m certain that wasn’t the case prior to the movie’s popularity. I specifically watch the closing credits to Beetlejuice for the dance scene with Winona Ryder suspended in mid-air while dead characters dance to “Jump in the Line.” I’m a fan of Harry Belafonte, whose album “Calypso” became the first LP by a single artist ever to sell a million copies 30 years before I was born. I now own that LP because of Beetlejuice and chant “Day-O” at Minnesota Twins games because of Beetlejuice.
Quite possibly responsible for both the creepiest and funniest moments in movie history, Q Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses” is the best use of music in movies in two very different instances. The song was also used in Married to the Mob and the Maniac remake as further evidence of its number one status on this list. Firstly, I’ll forward this by saying I find the song to be objectively great, both musically and lyrically. The lyrics are wonderfully vague and require explanation. (The song’s about transcendence over those who see the world as only earthly and finite,” according to its writer, William Garvey. “The horses represent the five senses from Hindu philosophy, The Bhagavad Gita, and the ability to lift one’s perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.") All things most certainly do not “pass into the night.” Secondly, besides maybe “The Entertainer,” there isn’t a song more associated with a movie than this one -- and this one’s associated with two magical movie moments. Most people are aware of the first. The latest use of “Goodbye Horses” in Clerks II helps a newly sober Jay overcome his urges. The brilliant choice by Kevin Smith to use it allowed the song to reach an entirely new generation, leaving a lasting legacy in pop culture.