by John Delach
Step in a little closer, ladies and gentlemen and observe that I have nothing up my sleeves. I come before you today with the deal of a lifetime. I kid you not but let me warn you that I shall not pass this way again any time soon. Observe the little red card I hold in my hand. The Moviepass Mastercard. It’s a debit card property of the Fifth Third Bank but it can be yours.
Folks hear me out, this little red card is your entrance to endless entertainment on the big silver screen any day, every day at movie theaters throughout the United States of America. Armed with this little red card, you may walk into a participating theater each day of the week and see a motion picture of your choice for free. You heard correctly; F-R-E-E, free, free, free!
You ask, “So what’s the catch?” There isn’t any catch. All you need do to obtain this little red card is to have a smart phone. You download the Moviepass app, fill out the application on the app and register your credit card number with your new pals at Moviepass. They will charge your credit card $9.90 a month and send you the little red card in seven to ten days.
“I sense skepticism! Do not fear and let your hearts be glad. I guarantee your credit card will not be billed until you successfully use your little red card for the first time.
Think of the possibilities: you can see 30 movies a month for the sum of $9.90. You say $9.90 is too much, how about $7.90? No; how about $6.90? Ladies and gentlemen, you must agree this is the deal of a lifetime.
Our daughter, Beth, first told us about Moviepass in early February. We took the $9.90 plunge and received our cards later that month. My first attempt didn’t go well. The rules that accompanied my card seemed simple enough, go to the theatre armed with your smartphone and debit card. On arrival in the lobby, activate the app for that theatre, the movie you want to see, the movie start time and check in electronically. Once my app confirmed I was checked in, all I had to do was present my debit card to the cashier who will print my ticket. But when I arrived at the Stadium multi-plex in Westbury, the app would not connect. I went so far to seek assistance from the theatre’s customer service rep. without satisfaction. Humbled, I thanked her and returned home.
Rather than give up, I tried using the app at our local theatre in Port Washington where it worked just fine. I had no desire to pick the movie about to begin so I gave my ticket to a waiting customer who successfully used it. As a second test, Mary Ann and I returned to the Stadium that had defeated me. This time, she successfully used her card. She picked Peter Rabbit as her movie. She asked the next person in line if he was interested in that movie? When he said yes, she made his day by giving him her ticket.
Since then we have enjoyed the following movies on Moviepass: Darkest Hour, Black Panther, The 3:15 to Paris, Red Sparrow, Game Night, A Wrinkle in Time, Stalin’s Funeral, The Leisure Seekers, Outside, In, Lean on Pete and Chappaquiddick.
To say this is a movie goer’s bonanza is at best an understatement. Not only does it provide a ready-made incentive to see the movies we truly want to see, it entices us to take-in less desirable films that we wouldn’t ordinarily considering seeing.
It works like a charm. Are there restrictions? Of course, there are. There is limited access to e-ticketing so advance purchase from home is severely limited. It doesn’t include 3-D showings or IMAX and so-called “stadium theatres” showing block-buster movies like Black Panther. Operators who know they will be mobbed can opt out of accepting Moviepass for new openings. But other than these slight inconveniences it is swell.
Truthfully, our problem is we keep looking over our shoulders waiting for the ultimate implosion. Someone is not making money. We’ve asked ticket clerks if this was hurting them? They laugh and say, “Not at all.” They are satisfied with amount they receive and are paid immediately thanks to the debit card.
Is this a Ponzi Scheme? Does Moviepass have a complicated business model we can’t contemplate? Or is this a means to some other end?
Who knows, not me. I sense somewhere a clock is ticking but until this bomb goes off, Mary Ann and I will ride these horses as far and as long as they will take us, and should a day of reckoning come around, we’ll take solace in an old warning that we expect will be Moviepass’ epitaphic:
It was too good to be true and like most deals that appear to be too good to be true, they usually are too good to be true… and so it goes.
(I will be traveling next week so the next edition of “On the Outside Looking In” will appear on May 23.)