The story of MoviePass is the story of a meteoric rise and a sudden collapse at its core. Another ugly chapter of that story was revealed this week as an investigation uncovered the company's CEO ordering employees to change the passwords of users to slow use of the service. MoviePass' lead executive Mitch Lowe didn't give out the order until the slide out of business had begun, but the shady nature of these dealings is still stunning.
Frequent MoviePass users found themselves unable to log in to the service at seemingly random times and now those people know why the app may have been on the fritz. Business Insider reports that MoviePass enacted this strategy to save the company money while it was in a period of downfall. They couldn't figure out how to offset costs in any other way after dropping the price to $9.99 per month. The executives targeted numerous regular users and changed passwords without informing the customers beforehand.
Business Insider explains, "Per Lowe’s orders, big blockbusters would no longer be available on the app. MoviePass also enforced what it called a “tripwire,” an automatic shutdown mechanism for all users that would be activated if MoviePass went past a certain amount balance. If money ever ran out, subscribers would see the following message on the app: “There are no more screenings at this theater today.”
Unsurprisingly MoviePass has shut down again since these tactics were employed. The controversial movie ticketing app said the move is an attempt to update to provide a better end product for their customers. No exact timeframe for the downtime has been revealed and visiting the landing page carries the message below.
"For the past several months, MoviePass™ has been working hard to improve our groundbreaking subscription service to ensure it meets the vision that we have for it. We are temporarily not accepting new subscribers as we work on these improvements. Please enter your email below and you will be notified when we are accepting new subscribers to our improved service."
“There’s never a good time to have to do this,” MoviePass' Mitch Lowe said in a statement when the closure was announced. “But to complete the improved version of our app, one that we believe will provide a much better experience for our subscribers, it has to be done.”
“We have listened and we understand the frustrations of our subscribers,” he continued. “To provide the level of service you deserve and we can be proud of, we need to improve our mobile app. We plan to make this improvement by utilizing an enhanced technology platform, which is in the final stages of completion,” he concluded.
MoviePass first launched in 2011, promising fans they could see any movies any time they wanted, with the only exception that could only see one movie per day, a package the startup charged consumers $9.95 per month for. After realizing the heaps of money they would be losing as a result of their business model, the company started rolling out various changes, limiting customers to seeing certain movies at certain times, often times changing or implementing new rules every other day.
In December of 2018 , the company introduced pricing, where it nearly tripled in some markets. For more rural areas, MoviePass packages were available anywhere from $9.95 to $19.95 while those located in urban centers had to pay between $14.95 and $24.95 depending on the package they chose.
“We have a lot to prove to all our constituents,” Lowe shared with Variety at the time. “We don’t just have to prove ourselves to our members, we also have to prove ourselves to the investment community, our employees, and our partners. We believe we’re doing everything that we possibly can to deliver a great service and we’re in the process of fixing all the things that went wrong.”