Watch: The Nerdwriter Breaks Down Why MoviePass Doesn't Work

The well-regarded video essayist shares a common hope that a movie-goer's dream-come-true won't be ending soon.

Over the past few months, we've been keeping a close eye on the ongoing struggles that MoviePass has faced as doubts continue to mount over the profitability of the company's revenue strategy. When we first heard about the subscription service last year, it almost seemed to good to be true. And now, the majority of reports seem to indicate that that may indeed be the case. 

In his video essay detailing the inadequacies of MoviePass's business model, The Nerdwriter succinctly identifies the company's main problem: The subscription service costs $9.95 a month and the average movie ticket costs $9.16. MoviePass has to pay what you would be paying for the price of admission every time you go and see a movie using the service, which means that if you see more than one movie a month the company takes a loss. If you see two movies they pay double what they gain, three movies, triple, and on and on.

So how many movies does the average MoviePass user actually see? Too many. One and a half to be exact. The company has had too many die-hard cinephiles sign up and not enough casual moviegoers. In order to really succeed in making a profit, the company will need to attract customers that frequent the movies far less often, even with the subscription at their service. It's a tricky goal to reach for a company whose service's greatest benefit is letting its users go out and see movies far more often than they normally would.

The fact is that, while it remains to be seen if MoviePass is a great product for MoviePass, it is one hundred percent, without a doubt, a great product for indie film. People are actually going to see movies again and what's more, they're going to see smaller movies that they previously may not have shelled out $10-$15 for. The subscription service is making audiences braver than they ever have been before, allowing them to take risks on edgier festival favorites like Hereditary and documentaries like RBG and Won't You Be My Neighbor.

Credit: 'RBG' - Magnolia Pictures

The numbers overall aren't good. MoviePass's parent company Helios + Matheson announced that it lost $150.8 million dollars in 2017 as subscriptions to its service started ramping up. Last summer, MoviePass only had 20,000 subscribers; this year that user base lies at 3,000,000—quite a big leap in one year. Projections land subscribers at 5 million by year's end. And while more customers generally means more money, in this case, it's bleeding MoviePass dry. The company is losing an average of 21.7 million dollars per month.

As that number continues to grow, it's just going to mean more revenue loss until MoviePass reaches what is often referred to as "critical size", or the number of subscribers it takes to reach profitability. Nerdwriter estimates that number to be somewhere around 15-20 million subscribers, but it's hard to say whether even MoviePass knows exactly what it really is at this point. In any case, we really hope the service reaches that critical point before it runs out of money, because it has been a boon for both moviegoers and independent filmmakers alike. 

Your Comment


Isn't this a new company with a brand new model? It's going to take at least 3 to 5 years to see even the slightest bit of profit. I thought that's how these things worked.

July 16, 2018 at 2:02PM

Alex Alva

But why the cinema companies haven't made their own pass like in France? There's 2 different passes in France, for 15 years now. Both are about 20€, you choose depending on where you like to go to the movies or where you live. It works perfectly and many independent cinemas accept the card too. So for instance, in Paris with 20€ you can go to dozens of different cinemas. I used to go watch a film pretty much everyday when I was living there.

July 16, 2018 at 3:48PM, Edited July 16, 3:48PM

Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer

Granted it's taken them a while, but AMC has launched its own "pass" which it calls "Stubs A-list". It's more expensive than MoviePass but has some features MoviePass doesn't, like the ability to see movies in IMAX or to make reservations even when you're not at the theater (unlike MoviePass which requires you be at the theater in order to get a ticket).

July 17, 2018 at 5:11AM, Edited July 17, 5:13AM


Why does the industry hate on innovation? At the end of the day, MoviePass puts more butts in seats. Allot more. My family and my friends have it, and we see way more movies than we ever did before. This is GOOD for filmmakers. Why do so many industry folks hate on this kind of thing? They're the same ones that said Netflix was a joke, the RED camera and digital would never take off, and Final Draft is the ONLY way to write a script.

July 19, 2018 at 10:01PM, Edited July 19, 10:01PM

Caleb Price