MoviePass to Shut Down

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The app once boasted several million subscribers at its peak, but shuffled through multiple pricing plans and faced several technical issues that stalled momentum.

The curtains have closed on MoviePass, the once influential theater subscription service that offered its users unlimited movies per month for a flat fee of $9.95. The service, led by chairman Ted Farnsworth and CEO Mitch Lowe, will shut down on Sept. 14, its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc., said Friday.

The firm stated that "efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date. The Company is unable to predict if or when the MoviePass service will continue." In a letter to subscribers, Lowe touted the app's much-debated pioneering business model, saying that the company "remained committed to leading and competing in an industry that is resistant to outside competition and change."

The app once boasted several million subscribers at its peak, but shuffled through multiple pricing plans and faced several technical issues that stalled momentum. And MoviePass faced heavy skepticism within Hollywood that it had a sustainable model, despite its early growth. 

But for a time, its subscriber growth fueled headlines. "MoviePass is the fastest growing company in the history of the Internet, and that includes Netflix and Spotify. Any time you catch lightning in a bottle like that, it can be nerve-wracking for a lot of people," Farnsworth once told The Hollywood Reporter for an April 2018 profile. 

The eventual shuttering of the app wasn't exactly a surprise, as MoviePass went offline over the July 4 holiday for what was described as several unspecified "improvements" to the service. And MoviePass' app rival Sinemia shut down its service in the U.S. in late April, citing insufficient funding. 

Major theatrical exhibitors, however, found some takeaways in MoviePass' model. AMC's Stubs A-List subscription plan ($20 to $24 a month), launched in June 2018, now boasts more than 900,000 subscribers. Theater giant Cinemark says it has 800,000-plus members for its Movie Club ($10 a month) since it launched in 2017. 

This year, Regal Cinemas launched its own Unlimited subscription plan (starting at $18 a month) and specialty chain Alamo Drafthouse also recently debuted its similar Season Pass subscription service. 

It is unclear how MoviePass' shuttering impacts indie production company Emmett Furla Oasis Films, which the firm acquired in June 2018. 

Helios and Matheson said Friday that it "is continuing its efforts to seek financing to fund its operations," but added, "There can be no assurance that any such financing will be obtained or available."

MoviePass' letter to subscribers is below: 

Dear MoviePass™ Subscribers,

Over the past several months, MoviePass™ worked hard to relaunch its groundbreaking subscription service and recapitalize the company. While we were able to relaunch the service for some of our subscribers with an improved technology platform, our efforts to recapitalize the company have not been successful to date. As a result, it pains us to inform you that effective at 8 a.m. E.T. on September 14, 2019, we must interrupt service for all current MoviePass™ subscribers. MoviePass™ will be providing subscribers with appropriate refunds for their period of service already paid for. Subscribers will not need to request a refund or contact MoviePass™ customer service to receive a refund. Subscribers will not be charged during the service interruption. At this point, we are unable to predict if or when the MoviePass™ service will continue.

We still deeply believe in the need for the MoviePass™ service in the marketplace, to maintain affordable access to theaters and provide movie lovers with choices of where to go to the movies. In August 2017, MoviePass™ began a transformation of the moviegoing industry by introducing its low monthly price subscription service. Since then, others in the industry have followed our lead. Now, as a result of this transformation, movie lovers throughout the United States have the ability to see movies in theaters using subscription services at prices they can actually afford, albeit with limited choices of theaters using those services. In the course of this industry transformation, MoviePass™ has experienced setbacks and challenges that are well known. Nevertheless, MoviePass™ remained committed to leading and competing in an industry that is resistant to outside competition and change. We believe that fostering competition and change in the moviegoing industry is critical to the satisfaction of the moviegoing public and filmmakers alike.

We thank you for your loyalty to MoviePass™ and sharing our vision for the industry. Although we do not currently know what the future holds for the MoviePass™ service, we hope to find a path that will enable us to continue the service in the future.

Sincerely,

Mitch Lowe