MoviePass’ rapid rise and fall is legendary at this point, and new information has revealed how desperate the company became to try and prevent losses. Business Insider reports (per /Film) that when things were starting to look dire, CEO Mitch Lowe went so far as to order employees to change the passwords of heavy users of the service so they would be unable to log in and use it.
The movie subscription made a major splash when it rolled out a $9.99 price that allowed subscribers to see one movie a day, a price point that raised a ton of eyebrows from analysts and industry experts. It quickly became evident that the service had an unsustainable model with that price point, and Lowe ordering the password changes was just one of the shady tactics used.
Lowe also allegedly ordered that half of the subscribers be frozen from using the service the weekend that Mission: Impossible – Fallout was released, which was immediately after the company was forced to borrow $5 million in cash in order to stay afloat after it ran out of money. Notably, this was in addition to Fallout being made unavailable on the service. The freezing out of customers was described in a tweet by MoviePass as a “technical issue” that they were working to resolve after people complained online.
Following that weekend, Lowe decreed that major blockbusters would no longer be available on the app. The company also instituted a “trip wire” which would shut down users if MoviePass went beyond a certain balance — initially a few million dollars, but eventually down to a few hundred thousand. The messaging on the app would read for users, “There are no more screenings at this theater today.”
One former staffer said of the trip wire, “It was a guessing game. There were some days we actually got all the way through without the trip wire going off.”
MoviePass is technically still in business, but that may not be the case for long as a compliance counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice told Business Insider that the company’s reported tactics are “certainly unethical and could be illegal.” Most subscribers have moved on to other, more stable and legitimate services like Cinemark Movie Pass, Regal Unlimited, and AMC A-List.