Quest for 100

Note: The majority of this was written before the last week of July. Since then subscribers and journalists have penned many articles and tweets about the downfall and demise of MoviePass.

How it all began

I heard rumors about a mythical MoviePass. It wasn’t until one of my friends told me he had one that I became intrigued. Was it real? I could pay $9.95 per month to see a movie a day? This is not real. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not sustainable, if it is true. Apparently he had his pass for a while, but had never used it. I decided to wait to get confirmation before I joined the party.

After telling me it worked, I knew I’d purchase one. For whatever reason I procrastinated on doing it until one day I got a Slack message from a co-worker about a promotion they were running.

This did it! I was like it’s a sign from the frugal gods!

One of the caveats was that instead of being charged monthly you had to pay it all at once, which was $89.95 including a fee. Personally, I prefer to pay for subscriptions in one lump sum. If you give me a discount, it’s even better. I also know how I am. I will at least break even.

What’s the play, MoviePass?

Now, just sit back and wait. Uh-oh! So…..What’s this about people not getting their cards? I was thinking the promotion was a publicity stunt or a quick way to get an influx of cash. Their business model has been one that has been debated. I had my initial theories.

  • Data: Even before I knew about Helios and Matheson Analytics purchasing a majority stake in MoviePass, I thought about the data. It’s no different than the data that Uber collects on riders, right?
  • Gym membership: People will sign up and then stop going. At first it’ll be cool, but like most resolutions, your motivation to continue will cease to exist. You’re still on the hook for the dough though.
  • More movies = more concessions: I don’t know how they would get a piece of this, but the more times you go to the movies the more likely you are to take part in the experience by adding food and a drink.
Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

My pass was waiting for me once I returned home from visiting my family during Thanksgiving. I used it the next day to see Thor:Ragnarok. Putting off seeing it became embarrassing. As a fan of comic book movies 23 days may be considered too long after the relase date to be considered a fan.

The quest commences

By the time January rolled around I had already seen 5 movies. At some point I came across @BCON_MaliceCorp and @thebigpapamatt on Twitter. They were doing a quest for 100 movies and would chronicle it via a podcast.

“Friends don’t let friends quest alone” was the mantra the guys were embodying for the journey. After watching 9 movies in January and 11 in February, I was confident I could keep pace.

The end of February and the beginning of March were bolstered by the re-release of Academy Award Best Picture nominations. I’d usually watch them all, but this was the first time I’d see them all in the theater.

Please, no more trailers

During the quest I’ve learned that I loathe trailers. Ugh! They are long and are notorious for spoiling movies. On average trailers last 10–20 minutes. I typically will chill in the lobby until the film starts. I’ve seen the Mission Impossible:Fallout trailer too many times.

Here lately I can time my Regal movies just right as they show student films before the feature film. As soon as I hear them introduce the film, I know I’m in the clear. At Cinemark, I go in when I hear the popcorn popping or the concessions commerical. If you’ve been to one, you know exactly what I’m referring to.

For the most part, I’ll see almost any film. The CEO of MoviePass once said he wanted their service to be like Netflix for the theater, and I treat it accordingly. The only difference is I don’t have a profile that makes suggestions based on what I’ve seen.

Allure of watching movies in the theater

Watching a film with a group of strangers can be good or bad. Sometimes you’ll hear a joke or two, but no one wants to hear someone having an entire conversation. Witnessing people jump in horror movies, cry in dramas, or cheer for the underdog is all part of the moviegoing experience.

One of the most epic moviegoing experiences I had was when I went to see A Quiet Place. As others that have seen the film know, it’s pretty immersive. The use of sound or the lack thereof has an impact. The sound of hearing someone eating popcorn or moving in their seat is heightened.

I saw people leaving with full bags of popcorn because they either didn’t want to ruin the movie for anyone or maybe they thought the monster would hear them making a sound. On the flip side, I can see how someone’s experience could have been tainted if they had loud people watching it with them. Sorry to hear about that, BCON.

All your data are belong to us

Obviously, MoviePass is tracking the data. I give them money for a service and they document my patterns and habits. All of your data are belong to us or rather them.

What kind of data are they tracking? They have a history feature in the app that shows you the movie title and date of movies you’ve seen. They’ve since added a rudimentary ranking system that allows you to give a thumbs up or down. I decided, I’d create my own spreadsheet. It’s not like they’re going to give me access to “my” data.

Below you’ll see what I tracked and why. Also, I’ve presented some of the results in tables.

Date — I was curious which days would be the most popular for me.

Time — What time was I more likely to be at a movie?

Total — Although price is irrelevant, I wanted to know how much each ticket cost.

Movie — Without the title, how would I remember what I saw?

Rating — What would the breakdown of rated PG, PG-13, and R be?

Release Date — How many days after opening day did it take for me to see a film?

Duration — Exactly how many hours was I devoting to this quest?

Genre — Was I seeing more action, drama, comedy, etc.?

Theater — What would be my most visited theater?

Count — That’s what this quest is all about, right?

Concessions — Was I spending extra money?

Issues — Any problems with MoviePass? Consider it documented.

Notes — Was there anything else worth noting?

Numbers don’t lie

What does the data tell us? For starters, I watched an average of 11 movies a month. April was my biggest month. You probably won’t catch me at the movies on Monday. I’d suggest Thursday based on the information. A good interval is between 7PM and 10PM. Since I saw 12 movies at 10PM, which was the most for any time slot, that would be the best time. The next best slot was 7:25PM.

I’ve heard the CEO of MoviePass claim their data shows that subscribers don’t have theater loyalty. With a large data set I can see how that would be true. For me that’s not true. I like convenience.

I frequent Breckenridge because it’s the closest theater to where I live. However, there is one closer, but they don’t accept MoviePass. If they did, that’s where I’d be. Although, I have been racking up Regal Crown Club points because of my visits to Regal theaters. All six of the movies I saw at McCain Mall were movies that were not showing at Breckenridge during their first week of release.

The ratings breakdown is more a representation of what’s been released in general. I’d like to add that the majority of movies I pass on in the theaters are rated PG. No Paddington 2 or Peter Rabbit for me. The one unrated film was a foreign film.

By the numbers

152,856 — Regal Crown Club points accrued

$727.40 — Total cost of movies. Remember, I paid $89.95 for the subscription.

160 — Minutes of longest runtime. (Race 3)

127:43 — Hours and minutes of total runtimes. That’s over 5 days of films.

85 — Minutes of shortest runtime. (Strangers: Prey at Night & Action Point)

68 — Movies I’ve seen in the first half of 2018. Only 32 remain.

48 — Movies I saw after 6PM.

20 — Movies I saw before 6PM.

12 — Number of sequels

11 — Movies I saw the day before they were released.

$10.70 — Average ticket price

5 — Movies I saw with no one else in the theater.

4 — Times I splurged on popcorn.

3 — Movies I saw on opening day.

2 — Movies I saw twice, but only counted once. (Black Panther & Avengers: Infinity War)

1 — Situation where I got halfway to the theater and realized I left my phone at home. LOL!

Is MoviePass evolving or surviving?

There is much to be learned from the experience. People complain about how much MoviePass has changed from the early days. You can no longer see the same movie twice. You have to take a photo of your ticket stub. You have to submit to peak pricing.

I’m a fan of the service and frankly it’s been worth it for me. I’ve had well-documented issues with the app and service and I either figured it out or customer service responded in a timely manner in order to get it resolved. Once the app was down and I had to pay out-of-pocket for a movie. Everyone said there is no way I’d get a refund, but I did in 10 days.

I don’t know how long MoviePass will be around. If you own any of their stock, I’m sorry. The e-mail about them started selling merchandise raises concerns. Is that a sign that it’s almost over? Even if they don’t make it, they have proved that the subscription model works in theaters. AMC unveiled theirs this week. It’s not as cheap as MoviePass, but it does include 3D and IMAX films.

It is no question that MoviePass has brought people back to the theater. I think they’re hypothesis of people only increasing their frequency to theaters was wrong. If you following threads on Reddit or Twitter you’ll see that people have increased their frequency by a bunch.