Last weekend, subscription based ticketing service Moviepass faced backlash when it blocked users in certain markets from purchasing a ticket to see the Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller “Red Sparrow.”
The inconvenience reared its head alongside the dubious timing of Moviepass supporting an advertisement campaign for the competing release “Death Wish,” explaining that the incident was unrelated to the release and a result of testing the service to study the behavior and habits of their members.
“We are constantly testing all aspects of our service to optimize the model for theaters, distributors and members," Moviepass reps explained in a statement to Deadline. "We occasionally remove some films from our ticketing inventory in some markets for a limited time, similar to how we organically promote films in certain markets to better understand member behavior. As part of this ongoing testing, we have stepped up our efforts to remind members to always double-check the MoviePass app to confirm that their preferred showtimes and theaters are available for the movie they are planning to see before they leave for the theater.”
Given the limited scope of this incident, Moviepass isn’t likely to suffering any major backlash, at least in the immediate future. Both movies have underperformed at the box office, and while “Death Wish” has been critically ravaged, “Red Sparrow’s” middling reception and moderate sized budget doesn’t put it in but so much of a better situation. Both would appear to be forgettable late winter releases doomed to be forgotten.
The implications of a subscription service choosing what its paying customers are allowed to experience via denial of service on their end does however deserve to be looked at as its company has done little to engender a willful benefit of the doubt despite offering a service seemingly too good to be true.
As a professional critic, Moviepass has lifted a financial burden hanging over my head that has opened the door for career options in ways that were never before available. As a film buff that would follow the industry even if I weren’t employed to do so, it lets me step outside of my comfort zone to experiment with my viewing experiences with movies I might not have thought to try out otherwise, were I dishing out more money out of pocket.
Most importantly however, as a consumer, it alleviates a weight on the wallet caused by rising ticket costs that entices me to concessions far more often, the true bread and butter of movie theater financial intake. I’ve spent the better part of the last three months wondering how I managed to get by without such a service before, which makes many of its shadier dealings all the more heart wrenching to call out.
Moviepass has been a beacon in an otherwise bleak 2018, so far. However, users pay to choose what they want to see. The day Moviepass begins to assert authority on the very thing that users pay them to allow them to do is the day that their dubious business plan loses the support of many monthly subscribers.
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.