MoviePass not selling user data after all


MoviePass, a subscription-based movie ticketing service, shouldn’t be a hard sell at $9.95 per month. The company, however, touts a rollercoaster track record that often puts it at odds with its moviegoing consumer base.  

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe

(Image Source)

CEO Mitch Lowe most recently commented at the Entertainment Finance Forum on March 2 in Hollywood, during a panel titled “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?”, “[W]e get an enormous amount of information. Since we mail you the card, we know your home address…we know the makeup of that household, the kids, the age groups, the income. It’s all based on where you live. It’s not that we ask that. You can extrapolate that… Then, because you are being tracked in your GPS by the phone…we watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards, and so we know the movies you watch. We know all about you. We don’t sell that data. What we do is use that data to market film.”

*Insert 1984 reference Here*

I can think of a smorgasbord of companies with similar mission statements, but cognitive dissonance compels me to rabble against this one!

Lowe has since walked back these comments (kinda), claiming he misspoke and that MoviePass will be more respectful to the user information being mined from customers like black gold.

“We don’t intend to sell data. We will only use the data we collect to make our user experience more relevant.”

As someone who, back in the day, coughed up $60 monthly to use MoviePass’s service (yeah, I know; I’m not proud of my 2012-2013 life choices), $9.95 still sounds like a steal. It doesn’t help that, in 2018 alone, the subscription price for MoviePass has fluctuated anywhere between $6.95 to $10, but with still relatively reasonable prices, especially when compared to the average movie ticket price, it’s easy to forgive Lowe’s brow-raising comments and the nature of the company’s data collection scheme.

As a customer, who doesn’t want the convenience of an interface that reflects their movie viewing preferences? What it comes down to is how much personal information you, the consumer, will willingly give up in exchange for the service.

“Our vision is that we’ll know all the merchants around the theatre where you said you’re going to go,” Lowe said. “We can send you pop ups or push notifications saying, ‘hey there’s a Chipotle next door, use your MoviePass credit card and get your chips for free or go to the Starbucks across the street and get a dollar off your coffee.’ Our intent is really to know where you’re going to go and know when the movie is going to start, so we can give you relevant recommendations.”

And that’s really, really creepy (and annoying).

Furthermore, nothing’s free. MoviePass must answer to a higher power, and that higher power is money. Cold, hard, fed notes (and digital equivalents). It will continue to collect information on its clients in order to justify the low cost of $9.95-a month. The company might have jettisoned some of its data collection capabilities since Lowe’s initial statement but MoviePass remains a location-based service with the intent of selling you on nonsense from the nonsense store across the street from the movie theater.

Additionally, here’s what they’re not telling you…With the data collected, they won’t need to “push” Chipotle or Starbucks because user data and offering insight on consumer habits are two different commodities. There’s really nothing stopping this company (or any other company, for that manner) from selling their “expertise”.

As with any product, it’s equally up to the consumer to know what they’re getting into and MoviePass has been relatively forthcoming with its practices. I personally take more issue with the company’s illogical use of bundle deals that cause the subscription price to temporarily skyrocket or force new subscribers into purchasing something they don’t want, MoviePass’s team up with iHeartRadio being its most recent blunder for me.

“The agreement we make with our customers is in exchange for giving you a deal that many think is too good to be true, we need to know which movie you’re going to and when,” said Lowe. “That’s the trade off. If you don’t want to do that, you shouldn’t become a subscriber.”

Par for the course.