Some MoviePass subscribers were confronted with a problem this afternoon when AMC Theatres and MoviePass’ official Twitter accounts sent out conflicting information.
Earlier today, MoviePass responded to a subscriber who complained that a specific AMC theater location in New York City wasn’t accepting MoviePass anymore. The company confirmed that, unfortunately, it wasn’t working with certain theaters anymore. That means those who spend $10 a month for a specific card that lets them go to the movies as many times as they’d like may have fewer theater options.
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we no longer work with this theater. We hope to partner with them again.— MoviePass (@MoviePass) January 25, 2018
MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said certain theaters won’t be covered by MoviePass as of today, Jan. 25. His full statement, first reported by Deadline, can be read below.
“As of today, you’ll find a small handful of theaters are no longer available on our platform. Our number one goal as a company is to provide an accessible price-point for people to enjoy films the way they’re meant to be seen: on the big screen. Many exhibitors have been receptive to this mission, and we’re excited to keep working with theater chains that are closely aligned with our customer service values.
As we continue to strive for mutually-beneficial relationships with theaters, the list of theaters we work with is subject to change. We advise customers to always double check the MoviePass app for the most up-to-date list of participating theaters.”
The issue, however, is that it appears AMC Theatres wasn’t aware of this. The AMC Theatres guest services Twitter account is responding to angsty customers who are concerned they won’t be able to use their pass at certain theaters. The theater company said it hasn’t spoken to MoviePass about no longer working together, and no restrictions have been put in place.
Some of our guests say MoviePass may be blocking the use of their service at a handful of AMC locations. AMC has not restricted MoviePass acceptance at our theatres, nor have we heard from MoviePass about this. MoviePass customers should contact MoviePass for clarification.— AMC Guest Services (@AMCHelps) January 25, 2018
One customer took a screenshot of a conversation between himself and the company’s guest services, sending it to me via Twitter. In the screenshot seen below, MoviePass’ guest services representative can be seen stating that certain theaters are no longer working with MoviePass, but they are hopeful for the future.
The decision to cover less theaters will be disappointing for many subscribers — and also seems to reiterate AMC’s original concerns when the subscription price was dropped to $10 in August. A statement from AMC Theatres in August suggested that a $10 subscription fee for all-you-can-watch movies was “unsustainable and only sets up consumers for ultimate disappointment down the road if or when the product can no longer be fulfilled.” The company was looking into “whether it may be feasible to opt out and not participate in this shaky and unsustainable program,” according to the statement.
Lowe wasn’t worried about the costs at the time. He told Variety that because MoviePass works with MasterCard, AMC would have to refuse service to MasterCard users, which wasn’t possible.
“We pay full price for the tickets we buy,” Lowe said. “We comply fully with the rules of MasterCard and AMC has signed agreements with both their credit card processor and with MasterCard to comply with all the rules. They would essentially have to not take MasterCard in order to block us. I don’t think you can cancel that agreement without severe penalties.”
MoviePass has seen great success since introducing the lower price. The company surpassed 1 million subscribers in December, which the company called a 6,500 percent increase in five months. Still, the company had bigger plans, Lowe said in a press release.
“We believe that growth will continue as we further develop our application, improve customer service, enhance exhibitor relations and fill movie theater seats for incredible films to be released in the future,” Lowe said.
Some of those bigger aspirations started rolling out last week. MoviePass’ decision comes after a number of notable changes. Lowe announced at Sundance that MoviePass will be getting into the film distribution business, noting that “it’s only natural for us to double down and want to play alongside [distributors] — and share in the upside,” according to Variety. It’s unclear if getting into the film distribution game affected the company’s original business plan, but it’s likely that they’re related.
Polygon has reached out to both MoviePass and AMC Theatres for further clarification, and will update the story when more information becomes available.
Update (Jan. 26): Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson, which owns a majority stake in MoviePass, commented on the recent split from certain AMC Theatres locations in a statement obtained by Polygon. Farnsworth said, “Since the get-go, AMC has not been interested in collaborating with MoviePass — a move that is not in the interest of our subscribers and AMC theater-goers.”
Farnesworth confirmed that MoviePass will stop covering 10 AMC Theaters locations, which he said represents less than 2 percent of theaters MoviePass works with.
“We already know in past testing that MoviePass subscribers are not theater-loyal; they’re happy to drive by a theater that may be closer to a theater that will accept MoviePass — because of the MoviePass value,” Farnsworth said.
Earlier this morning, AMC Theatres’ guest services account on Twitter was still saying that MoviePass hadn’t contacted the company.