Insiders say MoviePass changed account passwords to 'slow down power users'

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

According to a Business Insider investigative report, shady operations were happening over the last two years at the "temporarily" shuttered theater subscription company MoviePass. Some of the shenanigans include changing users passwords without notice and setting up a "tripwire" to cut off ticket sales under false pretenses.

Multiple former employees stated MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe, and parent company Helios & Matheson Analytics (Helios) CEO Ted Farnsworth resorted to "questionable" business practices to keep the struggling company afloat.

One of those tactics was to try to limit viewings during times of blockbuster releases like Avengers: Infinity Wars and Mission Impossible: Fallout. Lowe allegedly issued an order to have the passwords of "a small percentage of power users" changed just before those films released. They would later tell the public it was due to a "technical issue."

"How do we slow down those [power] users?"
Mitch Lowe: "F--- those guys."

Another shady practice exposed by the insiders was the use of a "tripwire" that was set to halt ticket sales whenever the company hits a specific daily monetary limit. When sales reached this threshold, users attempting to purchase tickets through the app would receive a message saying, "there are no more screenings at this theater today." Of course, this message was utterly untrue. It was just an attempt to stem the company's hemorrhaging cash flow.

MoviePass and Helios initially hoped they would snag enough users who only went to the theater once a month to make up for those that went more often. However, one would expect that with a limit of one movie per day (30 per month), those buying subscriptions would want to make the most for their money. This business model resulted in an inordinately large number of "power users" who had to be slowed down some way, apparently by any means available, which eventually ushered co-founder Stacy Spikes out the door.

Employees blame Mitch Lowe for the despicable tactic. “Before Mitch [Lowe] came on it was, ‘How do we slow down those users?’” said one insider. “With Mitch it was just, ‘F--- those guys.’”

MoviePass could not be reached for comment. According to BI, "Farnsworth and Lowe are nowhere to be found, as most of the staff have yet to learn the cause of the company's [July] halt."

Image credit: rblfmr via Shutterstock

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TS Rookie
LOL .... now that the truth is out, they won't last long!
I remember those days a year ago. Mission Impossible was blacked out for 2 weeks before you could go see it. MP also selected 3 or 4 movies a day so you had to look at the weekly list to find out which day your movie was available to see and than go early in the morning to purchase the ticket for a later showing or else the tripwire would happen and it would say there are no show times available. I never saw a movie in Sept of 2018 and only saw 1 movie in Oct of 2018 and went this is complete BS and canceled my subscript.


TS Guru
Any legitimate, forthright business would have just declared the limits up front, or as they needed to be changed, and enforced them accordingly. That'd be fine.

Advertising one thing and then delivering another is not OK. It's even less good when the mechanism for doing so is clearly fraudulent and in bad faith. I hope they get whatever is coming to them.

Even so, I find it hard to believe anyone was too surprised over this. The model is/was clearly unsustainable on its face from the get go, people who wanted to try their luck and see much they could squeeze out before it went belly up were welcome to do so but I can't muster up that much sympathy for them only extracting say 5x-10x their cash back before it fell apart.


TS Rookie
That's not all they've done.
The last two months, the Movie Pass app has been completely offline and unusable, with a message from MP that went out to subscribers saying the app and software were getting "overhauled" to make it "better" for users. Which would be believable except for the fact that there was nothing wrong with the app to begin with. Everything worked fine. Any "technical issue" was intentional on MP's part to get you to not see movies (as this article made mention of).

Of course, did they stop charging subscribers during this downtime? Nope. They claim they'll "credit the amount of time" once the app is up and running again. I've been able to actually get into the app finally but of course it still doesn't work. So I go to my account to try and cancel my membership. Pretty convenient that I get an error message physically preventing me from canceling. So I followed someone's advice from Reddit that said to change my payment method to a prepaid gift card (one that works like a debit card) that has a few cents on it to screw over MP and get my membership canceled from lack of payment. And whaddaya know, the app conveniently took a new payment method without any issues, the only things that physically don't work are checking into movies and canceling your membership.


TS Rookie
Could you define power user of a MoviePass? 18 hours a day of movie watching?
Since the original model was that you could see a movie per day, a power user would've been someone seeing 30, or as close to 30 movies per month as possible.


TS Special Forces
Since the original model was that you could see a movie per day, a power user would've been someone seeing 30, or as close to 30 movies per month as possible.
While possible, as a practical matter there aren't that many movies to see in a given month unless you see some movies more than once. A few might but not the majority I'd guess.