I subscribed to MoviePass when it first showed up and found it a fantastic deal. For $35 I could literally go see up to 30 movies each month. Catch one each week and it was paying for itself! I wrote about it back in 2014 in glowing terms: MoviePass, A Film Lover’s Dream. Tons of movies, at any theater I wanted. I never quite understood the economic model, but the company assured us subscribers that it was “filling otherwise empty seats” so the theaters loved us. Until the company went bankrupt. Que sera, sera.
Zoom forward a pandemic and a few extra years and the company’s back at it again, but this time MoviePass is trying a different approach that has you buy “credits“, points that you spend to acquire tickets. A weekend evening? That’s the max ticket price, up to 30 credits. Tuesday at 11am? 10 credits will cover it. No surprise, there are a variety of plans to meet everyone’s needs! The basic plan costs $10/mo for 34 points, then it steps up to $20/mo for 72 credits, $30/mo for 113 credits, and the monster $40/mo for a staggering 640 credits/mo. None of these cover IMAX or 3D screenings, but you can ostensibly pay the difference since it would cover the basic ticket cost for that particular showing, though the theater employee might get a bit testy with you splitting your bill across two cards.
Note: Pricing in Southern California and New York City is quite a bit higher, so if you’re in either metro area, you’ll want to check the MoviePass Plans page. But if you’re in one of those areas, you’re used to your movie tickets costing more than anywhere else in the United States too.
One cool feature is that you can roll over your credits to the following month, so if you skip a month or are too busy to go to more than a single screening, all your unused credits will be added to your next month’s installment. You can’t accumulate more than 2x your plan’s credit value (e.g., a 34 credit plan will max out at 68 credits), but this is definitely still a good deal. Those evening films can be expensive on credits, but if your 72 credits (for $20) only covers two movies and a matinee, that’s still lots less expensive than purchasing those tickets directly from the theater chain. Where it’s great is if you have the flexibility to do those weekday matinees, which can be 10-12 points each. 72 credits could easily cover 6 films, making them $3.33 per ticket!
I reached out to the MoviePass PR team and asked if they’d comp me a month’s membership so I could try out the new improved program, and they generously gave me three months of “Premium”, which I absolutely plan to use as all the great summer blockbusters show up! I was a smidge anxious about using it for the first time, however, because my entire family subscribe to the AMC A-List program ($22/mo for 3 movies/week, including Dolby, Digital, 3D, and IMAX) and that’s a breeze. Having seen the new Indiana Jones film pre-opening, however, I wanted to see it again using MoviePass. Here’s how it went…
STEP ONE: FIND YOUR SCREENING
Start by getting the MoviePass app for your Android or iOS device and logging in. Then you’ll be able to see today’s screenings. No checking 4 days in advance, but that makes sense when you realize it’s not integrated into the general theater chain’s system, just an information system. When I looked for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, here’s what it showed me:
The small number in the grey circle indicates the number of credits required for MoviePass to cover the cost of your ticket. As I said earlier, those pre-noon matinees are the cheapest, but even mid-afternoon is pretty painless at 12 credits. Get nearer to the evening – like that 5:00pm showing at the AMC Flatiron Crossing 14 – and the price starts to increase at 15 credits. A prime evening screening at 8:00pm will cost 30 credits, but the theater ticket cost also goes up commensurately too.
I’m going to attend the 3:30pm screening at the Century Boulder, so I find that screening and tap on the time.
That all looks good. Here you can see how it works: Once I check in, I’ll have a credit on my MoviePass debit card that matches the cost of the ticket for two hours, then it’ll vanish again. It’s a very sophisticated use of debit cards, but it’s also easy and logical. When I get to the theater, I’ll tap “CHECK IN” and use my card.
STEP TWO: CHECK SEATING AND THEATER SIZE
What you don’t see here is information about the theater and how many seats are already booked. Is it a shoebox and you’ll be stuck in the front row, or is it a cavern that’s 90% empty? That you can ascertain by jumping to the particular theater chain’s app and starting the booking process but not buying the ticket. The Cinemark app reveals:
You can see that this is a $10 ticket. If I used the Cinemark app, I could book a specific seat, but MoviePass isn’t quite that tightly integrated so I’ll be booking my seat when I purchase my ticket at the movie theater. Still, this is a mostly empty theater so it should be a breeze to get a good seat!
STEP THREE: BUY MY TICKET AT THE THEATER
At this point, I just head over to the Boulder Century Theater and tap on the “CHECK IN” button on my phone (I recommend doing that 10-15 minutes in advance, actually so you don’t have any hiccups w/ Internet access at the theater). Here’s what the app showed me once I was checked in for Indy:
Notice if something comes up you can go to this screen and “Cancel reservation”, which is good to know if you have a very fluid and chaotic schedule. I was ready to proceed, however, so I walked up to the cashier to buy my ticket. He showed me a seating chart, I picked my seat, and it was time to scan my MoviePass debit card to pay:
It worked fine. In fact, the cashier was clearly familiar with people using MoviePass cards to pay for their tickets. 30 seconds later I had tickets in hand and had to make the most important of all movie decisions: Popcorn or no popcorn? 🍿
I opted to skip the popcorn this time, found my seat, and sat back to watch Indiana Jones search for the Dial of Destiny. MoviePass experience: Excellent. This is definitely a program worth exploring closely if you are a film aficionado and love the theater!
Disclosure: MoviePass gave me a three-month subscription to the service in return for this write-up. Thanks!