Moviepass testing

MoviePass is reportedly “testing” some new and old features that are making its subscribers unhappy.

Several users in certain markets noticed that their MoviePass app was barring them from purchasing tickets to Red Sparrow, the spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence. And meanwhile, a select few users got notified of an old, unpopular feature that MoviePass may be bringing back.

Is MoviePass Preventing Ticket Purchases?

MoviePass has appeared to be using their customer base as a bargaining chip in negotiations with high-powered companies like AMC. And now, more evidence of that has come with a new tactic.

Several MoviePass subscribers reported that when they attempted to buy a ticket to the Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller Red Sparrow through the app, they received the message, “This screening is not supported.” This seems to be limited to select markets, as our own Ethan Anderton was able to use MoviePass to buy a ticket to a showing of the movie on Thursday night in Indiana.

Apparently the same thing happened to one user trying to see Black Panther a little over a week ago:

We reached out to MoviePass about users being barred from certain screenings at these select markets. In a statement, the company explained that it is “testing” its service to “optimize” the experience for theaters, distributors, and members, adding:

“We occasionally remove some films from our ticketing inventory in some markets for a limited time, similar to how we organically promote films in certain markets to better understand member behavior. As part of this ongoing testing, we have stepped up our efforts to remind members to always double-check the MoviePass app to confirm that their preferred showtimes and theaters are available for the movie they are planning to see before they leave for the theater.”

MoviePass has claimed that its service boosts the box office gains of movies that they promote. This week, the film that MoviePass is promoting is Death Wish, which the above users noticed was available to purchase over Red Sparrow.

Death Wish MoviePass

What Does This Mean?

Potentially, MoviePass could decide not to allow subscribers to see movies from studios that don’t team with them for sponsorships in the app. To speculate even further, MoviePass could possibly limit us to seeing a new movie on opening weekend only if it’s a a co-sponsored film.

The message from MoviePass essentially appears to be: If you don’t pay us to promote your film, we’ll remove it from our app.

It’s a negotiating technique that we’ve seen with companies like Amazon, which has butted heads with Disney and Apple TV — with the former, you can’t pre-order Blu-rays of Disney titles, the latter because it competed with its own Fire TV.

MoviePass has appeared to use its subscription base as a bargaining chip before. In its ongoing stand-off with AMC, the company seems to be funneling its users away from the largest AMC theaters in a power move for a higher share of concessions. And yes, they can do that: Statistics from the company show that MoviePass subscribers have boosted films’ bottom line box office.

This could be another tactic for MoviePass to supplement its unprofitable $9.99 per month business model. First by strong-arming AMC for higher concessions revenue, and now, strong-arming studios with a “promotion or exclusion” strategy.

Another Step: Snap a Photo

While some users are dealing with the frustration of inaccessible screenings, others may soon deal with an equally unpopular feature: ticket photographing.

An old feature of the MoviePass app before it slashed its prices last year was ticket photographing. After checking in to the theater, users would have to upload a photo of their ticket stub before they can purchase their next ticket. It adds an extra step to the process for subscribers, and it’s potentially tedious for MoviePass’s programmers.

In a statement to us, MoviePass responded that the feature is only being tested among a “small group” of subscribers:

“This is a feature that we are currently testing to a small group of members. We’re testing this as a safeguard to help prevent fraudulent activity so we can maintain a sustainable service for the entire MoviePass community.”

We’ll keep you updated as this unfolds.

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