How does MoviePass work (and what happens when it doesn’t)?

The video below illustrates this paragraph if you’d rather watch than read how it works. To use MoviePass, you open the app and find the movie show time you want. You can browse or search by movie or theater. Once you’ve decided what movie you’re going to, you have to technically purchase the ticket at the theater. I say “technically,” because even though you’re the one making the purchase, MoviePass is picking up the tab. Go to the theater and verify that tickets are available for the show you want to see. Open the app, find the show time and tap it to check in. A screen will appear with the details to verify. When you confirm, your app my ask permission to use your location, because you have to be within 100 yards of the venue to activate your card. Wait a few seconds for confirmation that your card is activated; the confirmation screen will also remind you what your home zip code is in case the kiosk prompts you for it. You’ll then have 30 minutes to purchase the ticket at a kiosk. Make the purchase the same way you would make a credit card purchase (you can even earn points for a theater loyalty plan) and that’s it. Not every purchase went 100% smoothly, but customer service always sorted it out without a fuss. I know this seems convoluted, but it’s actually much simpler in practice.

If the embedded video doesn’t load, click to watch
MoviePass In Action (Sort Of) at YouTube.

That failure was a pretty isolated incident for me. It seems a lot of people feel that MoviePass has poor customer service, but that hasn’t been my experience. I assume (and it is an admittedly big assumption) that those times I spoke with customer service, the difficulty I was having was unique to me at the time, so I was the only one calling and could be given patient, unrushed assistance. There may have been times when MoviePass was experiencing a systemic failure that affected the entire user base, which led to hundreds of people calling, and MoviePass may not have the staff to deal with a sudden influx of phone calls. The incident in the demonstration video was not the first time I had to call customer service.

That was when I used my MoviePass to see Argo. When I was checking in, the app crashed before I got my confirmation. I restarted the app and tried to check in again and got a message informing me that I had already seen Argo. I called customer service and got through to someone immediately. The guy who answered explained that they were performing a database upgrade and that shouldn’t happen in the future. He activated my card and stayed on the phone with me to make sure my purchase went through and I got my ticket, which I did. As far as the app crashing, I don’t recall it ever happening again, but there was a time or two that I opened the app and it had no data. I simply waited and opened the app later and everything was in order. The incident outlined in the video above was a few months after this.

It was another few months before I had to call customer service again. I checked into a showing of Pacific Rim on opening night, but by the time I got to the kiosk, it sold out. In the event this happens, the app lets you cancel if the show time hasn’t passed and you haven’t bought the ticket, so that you can check into another movie. I walked to a nearby theater also playing Pacific Rim and found that while you can cancel the check in, at that point the app would only allow you to check into a different movie at the same venue. The thought of my walking to a different theater didn’t seem to occur to whoever was responsible for not putting that option in the app. I called customer service, again, I got through instantly, explained what happened, and the woman I spoke with activated my card and got me squared away. As odd as this may sound, I haven’t had that scenario of a movie selling out after I checked into it happen to me again, so I don’t know if they ever updated the app to allow for it.

The most recent, and to date, the last time I called customer service was on September 19, 2013. I had checked into a showing of the movie, Rush, but my MoviePass was declined at the kiosk when buying the ticket. I called customer service and instead of speaking with someone, I got a recorded message acknowledging the issue and instructing me to purchase the ticket with my own funds, and email a photo of my ticket & receipt to customer service to be reimbursed. I did so and got an e-mail back confirming receipt of my reimbursement request, and a few days later a credit appeared in my account for the cost I paid out of pocket. Since I never actually spoke with anyone at MoviePass about this issue, I have no idea what was the cause. If anyone else encountered this problem on that date please share in the comments, because I believe that this may have been a system wide issue affecting all MoviePass users, but I won’t elaborate further because I can’t prove what I think.

How has your use of MoviePass worked out for you so far? Have you ever had a problem using your MoviePass? Ever have to call customer service? Please share your experiences in the comments.  Also be sure to check out the other articles in my series on MoviePass:

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