MoviePass Is Back

But can it adapt to a diminished theatrical landscape?

MoviePass’ second act begins today — or, so the company hopes.

The movie subscription service that made headlines in 2017 for its promise of one movie ticket a day for the absurdly low price of $10/month collapsed in 2019 after the price point proved too good to be true. Now, the company is back under the control of original co-founder and CEO Stacy Spikes, and Spikes has a new idea for bringing MoviePass back to theaters on Labor Day.

New app

Starting Thursday at 9 a.m. ET,, MoviePass will open up a waitlist for a new MoviePass Beta app. Signup is first-come, first-serve, and will close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 29 or whenever the waitlist is full, whichever comes first.

It doesn’t cost users anything to sign up for the list, but MoviePass will use interest in the waitlist to gague which cities the service will roll out to first, with price points at $10, $20 or $30 a month, depending on the market. Full service for those selected will roll out on Sept. 5.

If you join the waitlist, you’ll get 10 free friend invites that will kick in once you sign up for the service. If you don’t join the waitlist, the only way to get MoviePass in the future is through an invite.

As of Thursday morning, it looks like many people will have to rely on friend invites. It seems the website wasn’t prepared for customer demand, giving users an error message every time they try to join the waitlist. People are already angry about it on Twitter:

We don’t know much else about MoviePass 2.0. The first iteration of the service was marred by service blackouts and intrusive ads from former analytics firm owners Helios and Matheson. A new version of the service would include in-app credits that customers can earn by watching ads, according to an April 2022 Time Magazine feature on Spikes.

“So many of you have called, emailed and even stopped me on the street to show that you still had your original MoviePass card and talk about how much you loved the service,” Spikes wrote in an email to potential MoviePass Beta customers this week.

But this time, love of theaters might not be enough.

Streaming, theater subscription services created an uphill battle

The new version of MoviePass is launching into a much different theatrical landscape than in 2017. COVID, the rise of streaming and the almost complete elimination of the 90-day theatrical window have resulted in a 31% decrease in domestic box office revenue this year compared to the same point in 2019 before COVID hit. That may change as we head into the fall and winter when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar 2: The Way of Water hit theaters.

Fewer people are going to the movies, and when they do, the selection is still not up to pre-pandemic levels. The number of films that open in 2,000 or more theaters is down 43% compared to 2019, according to Comscore.

Another hurdle that MoviePass needs to clear is one of its own making. When it went belly-up in 2019, it opened the door for theater chains to finally realize that a subscription business mdel would work. Now, most every theater chain has a subscription service, from Alamo Drafthouse to Cinemark to AMC to Regal Cinemas.

And that’s not to mention the number that streaming services like HBO Max and Peacock did on the traditional 90-day theatrical window by releasing many of their biggest movies day-and-date on streaming and in theaters. Moviegoers have come to expect a shorter wait period between when a movie hits the theaters and their own TV. MoviePass’ biggest competition is the couch.

Middle-budget movies

However, if this version of MoviePass succeeds, it might help to keep the middle-budget film alive. In a world where superhero films and sequels rule the box office, the price point for the earlier version of MoviePass got people to take chances on movies they might not have seen otherwise.

In 2018, MoviePass was buying 30% of all movie tickets sold in the U.S. for films that grossed $20 million or less, according to former CEO Mitch Lowe. Nowadays, those smaller films barely get distributed at all or they get sent directly to streaming. It’s unsure how many tickets a new MoviePass subscription will get you, but hopefully people use at least one of them to see something out of the ordinary.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this relaunch. The way things ended with MoviePass in 2019 left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but who knows. Maybe this will be the thing that finally gets people back in theaters for good.

We’ll find out on Sept. 5.

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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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