MoviePass is a movie ticket subscription service that's both super cool and highly suspect.

The service, which is currently only available in the US, allows you to watch a new film at the cinema every day for an entire month -- for less than the price of a single movie ticket. And, yes, you can cancel your subscription at any time, just like you can do with Netflix or other subscription services. It's truly an amazing deal, but one has to wonder: How does MoviePass do it?

Here's what you need to know.

What is MoviePass?

MoviePass is a subscription-based movie ticketing service that allows you to purchase a single movie ticket per day for a flat subscription fee. There are some exceptions, like that only 2D showings are included in the subscription and MoviePass won't let you watch certain big blockbusters more than once, or it limits you from seeing those films during their opening few weeks of release.

Helios and Matheson purchased MoviePass in August 2017, six years after the company’s founding. Immediately after Helios and Matheson’s acquisition, MoviePass cut its prices to $9.95 per month. That move gained it millions of new subscribers. MoviePass also owns Moviefone, a Fandango-like service, and production company Emmett Furla Oasis Films, which is now MoviePass Films.

How much does MoviePass cost?

MoviePass has offered several pricing structures since its original invite-only launch.

MoviePass tiers

  • MoviePass Plus: $9.95 a month (one 2D film per day)
  • MoviePass: $7.95 a month (three 2D movies per month)

On 31 July 2018, MoviePass said it would raise the service's cost to $14.95 a month in the next 30 days and limit availability for new, major-release movies during their first two weeks at the box office. You're not allowed to directly pay a cinema to upgrade to a 3D or IMAX showing.

Note: For reference, the $9.95-per-month subscription fee is far cheaper than the price of even one ticket to the cinema, especially in major US cities, where a 2D screening of a film can be as high as $17 per ticket.

Premium Showtimes

MoviePass announced that it will soon add the option for you to pay an additional charge to see films in IMAX or 3D, which you originally couldn't do. There's no word yet when this feature will go live or how much extra these "Premium Showtime" films will cost.

Peak pricing surcharge

MoviePass announced it will start rolling out "peak pricing" at the end of July 2018. The new policy will charge you an additional fee if you plan to seeing a popular film during a coveted time slot. In an example given to the media, MoviePass said it'd charge $3.43 to see a film like Avengers: Infinity War during a peak time. Peak pricing fees will range from $2 to $6, depending on the film.

Bring a guest

MoviePass announced it will soon allow you to bring a guest to a cinema by buying a full-priced ticket (plus, a $1.50 fee) for them through the app. The only benefit is you can easily checkout and reserve seating together, if seat selection is available at that particular theater.

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How does MoviePass work?

Sign up for MoviePass

First, download the MoviePass app and sign up. (You can also sign up from the MoviePass website.)

Activate MoviePass prepaid debit card

After you sign up for MoviePass, the company will send you a MoviePass prepaid debit card in the mail, which you’ll need to activate.

Using MoviePass at the cinema

When you want to see a film, use the MoviePass app to search for available showings at supported cinemas. Once you find a showing, head to the cinema. MoviePass will load the cost of the ticket onto your MoviePass prepaid debit card, and then you have 30 minutes to buy your ticket at the theatre using that card. You can't use MoviePass to book tickets in advance. It works for one movie on that same day.

Redeeming MoviePass e-tickets

In some areas, MoviePass does have partners that allow e-ticketing, meaning you can use the MoviePass service at these cinemas without the MoviePass prepaid debit card. These cinemas are indicated in the MoviePass app by a white ticket icon to the right of the theater name. E-ticketing theaters are also shown at the top of the list view in the 'Theaters' section of the MoviePass app.

Follow the below steps in order to redeem your e-ticket:

  1. Select the theater, film, and showtime, then hit check in.
  2. You will receive a confirmation code.
  3. The e-ticket will be stored in the menu of the app under e-tickets.
  4. Pick up your tickets at the box office or kiosk using the confirmation code.
  5. E-tickets are permanent purchases that cannot be cancelled or changed.

Where is MoviePass available?

MoviePass is only available in the US. It hasn’t announced any plans to come to the UK or elsewhere.

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Which cinemas support MoviePass?

MoviePass claims it works at over 91 per cent of US cinemas available.

Simply enter zip code in the MoviePass app and a list of supported locations in that area will appear. For those who do not have access to the app, visit the MoviePass website for a list of supported theaters. Scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your zip code to search the map.

Is MoviePass too good to be true?

Well, MoviePass pays cinemas for tickets and charges subscribers a low monthly fee, which is slowly bankrupting the company and causing it many financial woes. For instance, it ran at a loss of $150 million in 2017.

But here's the thing: MoviePass has inked deals with more than a thousand independent cinemas, where it receives $3 of every ticket sale it drives (or a 25 per cent cut of the money from concessions). This doesn't sit well with some legacy cinema chains, like AMC, which has yet to agree to such a deal, forcing MoviePass to remove 10 of the most popular AMC branches in the US from the service.

Interestingly, MoviePass later claimed it drives 62 percent of AMC’s operating income, so it appears to be using its new growth and dominance in the cinema industry to push AMC and other chains into deals with it. MoviePass is essentially taking huge risks of that could backfire spectacularly. Keep in mind it's also been making some users unhappy with app outages and pricing fluctuations.

The company's CEO was even forced to apologise for peak pricing.

What is a MoviePass outage?

MoviePass has went offline for running out of money and other reasons.

Helios and Matheson saw its share price plummet to below $1 in July 2018, and the MoviePass app went down for about a day. An SEC filing revealed that MoviePass had to take out an emergency $5 million loan to pay cinemas and partners in order to bring the app back online. The company then released a statement that tried to recast the outage as a back-end technology problem:

“First, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused from the temporary outage in the app over the past day,” it said. “We have handled the issues on the back-end, and our app is now up-and-running with stability at 100 person.”

Are there any MoviePass alternatives?

AMC is now launching its own MoviePass service, called AMC Stubs A-List, which offers three movies each week for $19.95.