Some former MoviePass users who thought they had shed their subscriptions once and for all last month found a surprise in their email inboxes this weekend.
The movie ticket subscription company — which had a summer of catastrophes, service changes, and even an emergency cash infusion — reportedly emailed an unknown number of former subscribers to say that they would be part of a “select test group” who would be automatically subscribed to a new program, beginning October 5, unless they opted out.
Business Insider obtained a copy of the email, which was sent with the subject line “MoviePass Updates.”
The people who received the email seem to have been among the group of users who chose not to reenable their subscription through MoviePass’s app after the company changed its plan from $9.95 for one movie per day to the same price for three movies per month, a change that happened in August. Subscribers who did not opt in to the three-movie-per-month program were previously told that their account would expire.
However, the email sent over the weekend said that some of those people would be automatically resubscribed to a new program at $9.95 per month for one movie per day.
“If you decide that you do not want this you must ‘opt out’ before Thursday, October 4th at 9:00pm EDT,” the email said. “To be clear, unless you opt out, your unlimited subscription will be restored and you will begin enjoying unlimited movies again (up to 1 movie per day, based on existing inventory) at $9.95 per month, and your credit card on file will be charged on a monthly basis beginning Friday, October 5th, 2018.”
In other words, a group of former MoviePass subscribers were informed that their credit cards will begin being charged again unless they specifically opt out again.
The move was, understandably, exasperating to some of those who received the email:
Called Chase to block all future MoviePass charges and the woman I talked to was like “Shit! Really?! I cancelled my MoviePass months ago and sent all their emails to spam! Shit!” https://t.co/dnKrQ76z9r
— Kaitlin Kelly (@caitidh) September 30, 2018
This latest email seems to have gone only to a select group of former subscribers: I am among the former customers who have not opted in to the new three-movie-per-month plan, but I did not receive the email. I was last charged a monthly subscription fee by MoviePass on July 21.
When contacted by Business Insider, MoviePass confirmed that the former customers who received the email were those who had not opted in to the new three-movie-per-month plan, but contended these users had also “expressed interest” in the return of the original unlimited plan.
“There are a number of members who received the email from whom we have previously received conflicting indications over the last several months — having initially opted-out and then opting back in as we tweaked the offering. We had left their accounts suspended in an abundance of caution and are now offering them the opportunity to return to the plan that they originally liked,” the statement to Business Insider read.
MoviePass’s statement is at best disingenuous, since the email sent to the former customers did not “offer” customers the “opportunity to return to the plan that they originally liked,” but rather informed them that they would be automatically charged for a subscription unless they specifically opted out — which is ethically very murky ground, as Business Insider notes.
But it seems to be of a piece with MoviePass’s actions over the past few months. In mid-August, a number of customers who thought they’d canceled their accounts found that they had been resubscribed, and reported difficulty in canceling.
That same week, MoviePass’s parent company also reported extraordinary losses that indicated the company might run out of money within about two months — a time frame that ends in about two weeks, in mid-October — and shareholders filed a class-action lawsuit against the company.
Because so much of MoviePass’s ability to attract investors and generate revenue has to do with the size of its subscriber base, it may make sense that the company is trying, once again, to get former subscribers back, and the shady “opt out” method might net more resubscriptions (however inadvertent) in the long term.
But with polls showing a steep decline in consumer confidence in the company, the newest attempt doesn’t seem poised to win over many fans.