How to Use a MoviePass in 10 Days

SF Weekly's staff writer spent $9.95 on $130.23 worth of movies.

Like many people who heard that some app called MoviePass started charging $9.95 a month and lets you see one movie a day in theaters, I thought it was too good to be true.

Given that AMC Theatres immediately threatened to sue MoviePass, my boyfriend and I figured that, even if we only had it for one month, it would more than pay for itself. (Never mind that that’s $9.95 a month I don’t usually spend on movies.)

More than a month after signing up and using it, I’ve come to the easily determined conclusion that MoviePass simultaneously lives up the hype — and it’s also a big headache.

We were told the debit card would take up to a week to get going, but thanks to woefully inaccurate predicted delivery times, it ended up taking nearly a month in between a few standard apologetic updates and desperate mailbox checks. (We signed up less than a week after news of the deal blew up, mind you.)

Within two days of the announcement, so did 150,000 other people. MoviePass has at least 400,000 subscribers as of September, Business Insider reported.

Users can watch one movie each calendar day by checking in within 100 yards of the theater. That sends the exact ticket cost to the MoviePass debit card that you use to buy the ticket.

E-ticketing is meant to circumvent the need for the card, but no theaters in the area popped up as having that ability.

We’d already accepted that all the movies we wanted to see would be long-gone if and when we ever got the damn card, but one for me and one for him miraculously arrived, so we immediately strategized.

That first night, did we go to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the movie we were most itching to see? Nope, we didn’t plan to see it for another week, in order to catch the other movies that were leaving in just a few days. Here’s how I spent 10 days of my new amateur film critic career:

Day 1: Baby Driver – $12.25
Day 2: Atomic Blonde – $15.49
Day 3: Logan Lucky – $12.50
Day 4: Spider-Man: Homecoming – $22.49
Day 5: Kingsman: The Golden Circle – $10.50
Day 6: Dunkirk – $10.50
Day 7: Ingrid Goes West – $11 
Day 8: The LEGO Ninjago Movie – $12.50
Day 9: Girls Trip – $12.50
Day 10: Brad’s Status – $10.50

Technically, Spider-Man wasn’t through MoviePass, because the card repeatedly declined and the theater attendant kindly let us in for free. We later realized the transaction didn’t work because it was a Dolby Sound showtime, which comes at an extra cost that MoviePass doesn’t cover. (We only went to that showing because Ingrid Goes West wasn’t showing that night like we planned, so we waited around for up to an hour because the app also had server issues and couldn’t check us in.)

All in all, I racked up $130.23 in ticket costs but spent about $13 in popcorn and BART fare outside of my usual commute for this first buffet round. I ended up going a full week before seeing another movie, which happened purely so I could regroup from a cold that hit me as I was on my way to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass before turning back around. (I have failed you, Conor Oberst!)

MoviePass certainly has some growing pains, and I learned a couple lessons firsthand: Check in as soon as you can because poor cell service can screw you over, think about downloading Fandango while you’re at it because the app’s showtimes are not reliable, and take copious screenshots of glitches and customer service chats because you’ll probably need it one day when you could be stuck waiting for a reimbursement for a ticket the app wouldn’t give you.

I’ll give MoviePass some points for not sucking nearly as bad as LEGO Ninjago, which had expectations raised by its surprisingly good predecessors — The Lego Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie — but ultimately ended up like another bad kids movie.

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