Entertainment

Like going to movies? This deal sounds too good to be true, but isn’t

MoviePass members use a smartphone app to check in at the theater.
MoviePass members use a smartphone app to check in at the theater. New York Times

In the face of Netflix and other formidable forces, I refuse to abandon the movie theater experience. The 20th Century Fox fanfare on the big screen makes my heart swell, the “Star Wars” crawl brings tears to my eyes, and don’t even get me started on how much better popcorn tastes when consumed in a plush red chair.

Frequent moviegoing is an expensive habit, so imagine my excitement when I discovered MoviePass, a service that charges $9.95 a month and allows you to see one film a day. That’s cheaper than a single ticket in most major cities. The company now has more than 1.5 million subscribers and pays the theaters full price for each ticket, hoping to eventually make money by attracting studios as investors.

MoviePass recently sparked a hullabaloo when it realized it would do just fine if it pulled out of 10 high-traffic AMC theaters in cities such as Boston and Los Angeles. While one might assume it’s because MoviePass bleeds money at popular locations, CEO Mitch Lowe attributed the decision to the company’s desire to “strive for mutually beneficial relationships.” AMC executives have explicitly stated that the theater chain has no intention of sharing the admissions and concessions revenue that MoviePass claims it has had a hand in generating.

Here are some points to consider if you’re on the fence about signing up:

▪  As of now, MoviePass still works at a good number of theaters: Many markets accept MoviePass, but if you live in a city like Boston, you’re out of luck.

You can see which theaters in your area accept MoviePass at moviepass.com.

▪  You have to show up in person to get tickets, so you risk a movie selling out: After hearing folks at the office rave about a little movie called “The Post,” I trekked across the city and got to an AMC around 2 p.m. to purchase a ticket. Surprise! Every showing of the film was sold out for the rest of the day. MoviePass doesn’t let you purchase tickets online, which means you either have to get to the theater earlier to purchase a ticket, or risk it and show up right before.

▪  It’s great for solo moviegoers, but not so much if you prefer group outings: There’s so much to be said for seeing a movie alone. You can go whenever you feel like, focus entirely on the movie and form an opinion all on your own. Back in my pre-MoviePass days, two friends and I decided to see a particular movie. A pair of us bought tickets online, and we arrived at the theater about 45 minutes early so our cardholding pal could purchase hers. Alas, it was sold out.

▪  MoviePass is another subscription you’ll have to keep track of (or not): How many subscription services have you signed up for? Netflix, Spotify ... hmm. Five? Six? You’re probably forgetting one. MoviePass charges you automatically, which is convenient and good for budgeting. But this could work against you if you never use it or forget you even have it.

The weirder thing about MoviePass is that it also keeps track of you. Last summer it sold a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics, a data company that can draw information from MoviePass members. While the company doesn’t plan to sell that user data to others, according to Wired, it can still use it to target movie promotion via the app or email. It’s all very “Black Mirror.”

▪  You can’t use MoviePass on 3-D or IMAX movies: The tickets are simply too expensive for the service to afford. For people like me, this might not be an issue. I haven’t seen a 3-D movie since I watched glowing Na’vi warriors fly around on mountain banshees during “Avatar” and went home with a pounding headache.

MoviePass is accepted here

All Treasure Valley theaters accept MoviePass.

How it works: People who sign up at moviepass.com receive a membership card that functions like a debit card.

When members want to see a movie (no more than one a day), they use a MoviePass smartphone app to check in at the theater. The app instantly transfers the ticket to the membership card. Members in turn use the card to pay for entry.

Subscription is month to month. If you cancel, you have to wait nine months before subscribing again.

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