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MoviePass changed passwords to lock out users once it ran out of sane ideas

Published Aug 9th, 2019 6:04PM EDT
MoviePass changed passwords
Image: Cummings/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Back in the summer of 2018, the beleaguered movie ticket app MoviePass was attracting a firestorm of complaints from users who were unable to use the app (for which they were paying $10 a month to see one film per day) to buy tickets for some new blockbusters, like Mission: Impossible — Fallout. “As we continue to evolve the service,” CEO Mitch Lowe said at the time, in a statement released to tamp down some of the complaints, “certain movies may not always be available in every theater on our platform. This is no different than other in-home streaming options that often don’t carry the latest shows or movies that may be available on other services.”

What MoviePass was also doing behind the scenes, though, and which was different from pretty much every other company not drowning in a dumpster fire of poor decisions, is something that’s only just now come to light.

A new report reveals that the service has actually been known to secretly change the passwords of users when the service is otherwise facing unsustainable customer demand. That news comes via Business Insider, which notes the practice even occurred ahead of Fallout.

With that in mind, compare Lowe’s statement above, as well as this tweet from the company leading up to the Fallout opening weekend:

… both of which, the Lowe statement and those tweets, imply some sort of behind-the-scenes problems that businesses experience all the time, right? Turns out, however, Lowe actually ordered MoviePass users to be “frozen out of the weekend of (Fallout’s) release,” BI notes in a story about the rise and fall of MoviePass, despite MoviePass attributing the Fallout weekend problems to a technical issue, as you can see in that tweet.

It’s such a far cry from what MoviePass was supposed to be, and can almost imply incurable flaws in the company’s business plan because of how poorly MoviePass has performed over the past year or so (there has been a slew of other horrible decisions we won’t get into here). We say “almost,” because the idea of a subscription offering that incentivizes people to go see more movies is not in and of itself a bad idea. Just look at the number of theater chains that are trying this exact thing, like AMC. Lowe, for his part, sure talked a good game from the outset. He bragged to me during MoviePass’ early days, in fact, once telling me that “The thing I specialize mostly in is business models — customer-facing business models.”

My, how things change. The BI report also alleges that MoviePass on Lowe’s orders did the same secret password tweaking to lock out some users ahead of the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Moreover, MoviePass didn’t stop its shenanigans at just fiddling with user passwords.

It seems the company also began enforcing a so-called “tripwire,” which is another way of saying that if MoviePass’ money ever dried up to a certain amount, the tripwire would kick in and the service would stop allowing ticket sales on that day. In hindsight, it’s probably a good idea Lowe is no longer with Netflix, right?

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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