The lights slowly start to dim and you settle into your seat, adjusting your back just so. Overpriced popcorn in one hand and a silenced phone in the other. Tonight that phone was your passport to see one movie, every day of every month for only $9.95.
And it works.
Since the initial round of media blitz, the MoviePass company has grappled with slow log-ins and crushing sign-up options. The controversial service lets you use a phone app that pairs with specialty debit card. You use location services on your phone to choose a theater around you, tap the showtime, and presto changeo, you can use the card to pay.
Or so that's the plan.
MoviePass launched a few years ago as a $30+ service. You can get one movie ticket a day. Still a heck of a bargain at $30.
Then the price dropped.
Earlier this summer, the company dropped the price to $9.95 a month and the website and app became a nightmare to even get one of the cards. And it makes sense. Ticket prices keep climbing and hit an all-time high in July. Nationwide, that average was $8.95, but good luck finding that price anywhere in Western Washington on date night.
So for just a buck more a month, you can go to nearly any theater and see nearly any movie every single day of the week. So what's the catch?
Turns out there may not be one.
Over the last few months, I've tried MoviePass at different Seattle-area theaters, from big chains to local favorites. Each time I expected some sort of computer error or "Oh so sorry, something went wrong!" message to pop up. It really doesn't seem like it's possible. But it's worked every time.
I went to the Admiral Theater in West Seattle for one of my first tests, and for my latest test. I checked out the first showing of "Thor: Ragnarok" on opening day. I walked up along California Ave, turned on location services on my phone and tapped the 12:30 start time (a little post-brunch viewing, obvi). Could I travel to the plane of Asgard without hiccup or delay?
The app says you have to be within 100 yards of the theater's location to activate the ticket. I went to the register and handed my MoviePass branded card over and they used it just like a regular debit or credit card.
I was in! Simple as that.
I've done the same on the Eastside at a Regal-brand theater, and at the popular AMC 16 at Southcenter in Tukwila.
Now there are a few hitches and quirks to remember.
First is location. Some specialty theaters don't show up in the app, like Cinerama and IMAX theaters. Their unique ticketing systems keeps MoviePass out. A minor complaint given that it works in nearly every single other theater in the country, regardless of owner.
There's also the issue of what kind of screening you can watch. MoviePass won't work for 3D or IMAX versions of films. Those fetch absurd premium prices and the math doesn't pencil out for the company. From a user standpoint, it's not that much of a loss. I usually watch regular 2D versions of movies because the bells and whistles don't seem to be worth the extra $5-8 dollars.
That also means you have to be a little careful on big weekends or some large movies. Because you can't pre-purchase online, you have to get close to the theater to get the app approval. So you won't know if a screening is sold out until you arrive.
Would I try using it for the 7 PM showing of "The Last Jedi" the night it comes out? Nope. Saturday at noon? Absolutely.
I also found it freeing to take a risk and see something that I probably wouldn't shell out $12 to see. I caught "Mother" and "Logan Lucky," movies that I totally would have waited for on Netflix or Redbox. Instead I was able to enjoy the theater experience and not feel like I lost money.
Up to 31 days of movies for $9.95? Sold.
Now if only we can do something about those popcorn prices...