I recently got an email from MoviePass, the movie ticket subscription service known to have gone bust. It was a promotional message announcing the return of MoviePass. Signed by the company’s CEO, Stacy Spikes, it was a celebration of the Imperial phase of the ministry. “So many of you have called, emailed me and even stopped me in the street to show you still have your original MoviePass card,” Spikes wrote.
Did you still have your original MoviePass card? It sounded like a bit of silly corporate myth-making. Except that I have reason to believe Spikes didn’t invent that detail. Because I still have my original MoviePass card. In my wallet At the moment. Why?
The long answer is that between 2017 and 2018 MoviePass was $9.95 a month for one movie a day, which was a ridiculously low fee, and I, like literally millions of other people, became obsessed with maxing out my MoviePass subscription, before the obvious end point came. At some point during my obsession, I really felt the presence of a collective MoviePass cult that celebrated it both as a service and as an idea so beautifully stupid it had to die.
So the short answer is that looking at it makes me happy.
In April, time‘s Eliana Dockterman wrote a profile of Spikes explaining what the heck happened at MoviePass. Unknown to me, and presumably many of his followers today, Spikes founded MoviePass back in 2011 and originally charged a much more reasonable $30 to $50 a month while “struggling for years to secure funding, which he credits at least in part to.” Racial Discrimination.” As the profile shows, the percentage of all VC funding awarded to Black entrepreneurs was little more than 1 percent in 2021.
In 2017, a company called Helios and Matheson Analytics bought a majority stake in MoviePass and then came up with the idea of promoting the service by temporarily lowering the price to the legendary $9.95. Spikes says he reluctantly agreed as long as they raised the price again after 100,000 sign-ups. “It literally happened in 48 hours,” Spikes said time. “I thought, ‘Great, turn it off.’ And they said, ‘No, no, leave it on. Look what happens.'”
What happened is the MoviePass era that we remember so fondly. At one point, the company had more than 3 million subscribers. Lots of people used it all the time, way more than Helios and Matheson expected. So it collapsed, crushed by its own impossible promise. In 2018, Helios and Matheson reported a net loss of nearly $400 million. Spikes were pushed out. In 2019 MoviePass ceased operations and in 2020 Helios and Matheson filed for bankruptcy.
In fact, this Imperial MoviePass phase was created by a decision that went against the wishes of its founder. Forgive the indulgence now, but isn’t that also the process behind the miracle of being a great movie? Someone who is bold has a vision and incessantly pushes it through countless compromise points—infinitely small and massive, creative and financial—until their vision is realized. That’s a way of saying that I don’t think any of MoviePass’s clutter should detract from what we had all too short.