MoviePass Desperate for a Reboot

Despite the company’s reports to the contrary, MoviePass is in trouble, and in a big way. Some industry publications are describing the MoviePass debacle as an “existential PR crisis,” meaning that, at least some market watchers believe this particular problem could pull the company down all the way.

For the uninitiated, MoviePass is a service that promised its customers the ability to view multiple movies in various theaters all for a flat monthly rate. Sort of a movie viewing membership club. For consumers who watch several films each month, the service was just what they were looking for… or so they thought.

In fact, when it was launched, a variety of tech and entertainment industry publication hailed the product as a service whose time had come. MoviePass was called “Netflix for movie theaters,” and rubber-stamped as The Next Big Thing in entertainment media.

Turns out, those accolades were a bit premature, or, at least, it appears that way. Some of the same publications that lauded the company are now saying it’s hurting. According to multiple reports, MoviePass is having cash flow issues, is “troubled” and “under scrutiny…”

So… what’s the trouble, exactly?

At this point, it’s not just a single issue. There have been some leadership shakeups, and there have been some communications misfires. Either of these alone could be troubling, especially for such a young company. But when a brand is having management issues, they are making big changes, and they are struggling to find a way to explain those changes that doesn’t send up red flags, that often spells trouble.

Of course, these kinds of issues often slip past most consumers, who just want the product they’re paying for to work. Game of Thrones fans, for example, don’t care who’s running HBO, as long as the app works so they can binge watch past seasons, and the next season starts on time. Turns out, MoviePass was having issues with that too.

According to multiple reports, on July 26, the MoviePass app crashed. Some customers were still having issues getting it to work the following day. A 24-hour period in the app world can feel like an eternity, especially with myriad fans raging on social media about not being able to access the app they paid for.

And this is where the communication ball was dropped. MoviePass was slow to respond to the complaints, and, when they did respond on Twitter, the company offered vague excuses and open-ended promises. Users and industry reporters went looking for the “real story,” and what they found was salt in the MoviePass wound. According to several reports, MoviePass had been struggling to get its bills paid, and its servers were turned off as a result. Thus, the app “crash”.

Subsequently, it was reported that the company took out a big loan to pay its outstanding debts, then it announced a price increase, from $9.95 to $14.99, even as customers learned the pass wouldn’t be good for the most popular movies until they had been in theaters for a bit.

And that was just the beginning of the “changes”. Customers were left with a product that was offering much less than they actually paid for, and asking a much higher price to keep getting less than what they actually wanted in the first place. Even worse, these changes were announced one at a time, so it felt like there was More Bad News every day for several consecutive days. When customers expected explanations and apologies, they just got more bad news.

-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is CEO & Founder of 5WPR & one of America’s most notable PR executives. He is the Author of best-selling PR book, “For Immediate Release.“

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