Recently, I have an email from MoviePassmovie ticket registration service guava bankrupt. It was a promotional message announcing the return of MoviePass. It was signed by the company’s CEO, Stacy Spikes, and is a celebration of the service royal period. “Many of you have called, emailed, and even blocked me on the street to show that you still have your original MoviePass card,” Spikes wrote.
Still have your original MoviePass card? Sounds like a silly company. Except that I have reason to believe that Spikes didn’t create that detail. Because I still have my original MoviePass card. In my wallet. Immediately. Why?
The long answer is that between 2017 and 2018 MoviePass costs $9.95 per month for a movie a day, which is a ridiculously low fee and I, like millions of others, am obsessed by maxing out my MoviePass subscription before the obvious endpoint arrives. At some point in my obsession, I actually felt the presence of a collective MoviePass cult that glorified it as a service and an idea so beautiful it had to die.
The short answer is that I feel happy just looking at it.
In April, TimeEliana Dockterman wrote a profile of Spikes that explains what the hell happened at MoviePass. I don’t know, and perhaps for many of its latter-day followers, Spikes founded MoviePass back to 2011 and initially charged a much more reasonable $30 to $50 a month while “struggling for years to secure funding, which he attributes at least in part to racism.” As the filing indicates, in 2021, the share of total VC funding awarded to Black entrepreneurs is just over 1%.
In 2017, a company called Helios and Matheson Analytics bought a controlling stake in MoviePass, then came up with the idea to promote the service by temporarily lowering the price to the iconic $9.95. . Spikes says he’s reluctant to agree as long as they bring the price back after 100.00 signups. “It happened literally in 48 hours,” Spikes said Time. “I said, ‘Great, turn it off.’ And they said, ‘No, no, just leave it alone. Let’s see what happens. ‘”
What happened was the MoviePass era that we remember so well. At one point, the company had more than 3 million subscribers. More people used it, all the time, more than Helios and Matheson ever bargained for. So it collapsed, crushed by its own impossible promise. In 2018, Helios and Matheson reported a net loss of nearly $400 million. Thorns have been pushed out. In 2019 MoviePass shut down and in 2020 Helios and Matheson filed for bankruptcy.
In fact, that period of MoviePass empire was created by a decision against the wishes of the founder. Now excuse the sloppiness here, but isn’t the process behind the magic of being a great movie? Someone bold has a vision and relentlessly pushes it forward through countless compromises — countless and gigantic, creative and financial — until their vision is realized. That’s a way of saying I don’t think any of the clutter of MoviePass will take away from what, all too succinctly, we had.