For many, it was the most promising and affordable movie theater option for those living in or around inland North County, but it appears the days of using the MoviePass app at Cinépolis in Vista have quietly come to an end.
That’s according to both this user of MoviePass and others who have independently confirmed that the app can no longer be used as an e-ticket to see films at the theater. Until this past week, MoviePass app subscribers could see up to three films a month for $10 for all of the films screening at the Cinépolis theater in Vista. That price was a bargain, given that according to the theater’s website, the cost of one film at the locale would cost ticket-buyers a range of about $10 to $15.
Within North County, the Cinépolis theater was the only e-ticketing locale and only one of four in San Diego County at-large, with the other three — the Digital Gym, Landmark Hillcrest and Landmark Ken — clustered near downtown San Diego. It regularly shows a mix of both independent films and big box office hits, currently playing films such as “A Star is Born” as an example of the latter and “The Old Man and the Gun” as an example of the former, as two cases in point.
At other North County movie theaters, on any given night, about one to three movies screen as MoviePass options and they are generally those with lower levels of mass popularity. Lacking e-ticketing, or the option to book tickets to films at any time of the day and not having to be 100 yards from the theater while booking, those theaters have dwindled in popularity for MoviePass subscribers in recent months.
For both business analysts and users of the MoviePass app alike, it was a case of too good to be true from the onset, with no obvious signs as to how the operation would ever turn a profit. Owned by the firm Helios & Matheson, that company’s stock price has dropped to .02 as of Oct. 29 and MoviePass for months now has sat cornered in a state of existential crisis.
Helios & Matheson, in a move analysts point to as further evidence of the company’s challenging economic situation, announced on Oct. 23 that it was spinning off MoviePass into a standalone business entity named MoviePass Entertainment Holdings Inc. The company said in a press release that it was doing so, in large part, because the MoviePass app brand had transformed into a reputational crisis for the firm.
“Since we acquired control of MoviePass in December 2017, HMNY largely has become synonymous with MoviePass in the public’s eye, leading us to believe that our shareholders and the market perception of HMNY might benefit from separating our movie-related assets from the rest of our company,” Helios & Matheson said in the release.
Within North County, several residents told The Coast News that they were likely to halt their memberships in the aftermath of Cinépolis no longer serving as an option.
“MoviePass did in fact cover most movie screenings in early-2018. But over the past several months, it has gone through round after round of service restrictions,” Richard Hannasch, a resident of Oceanside, told The Coast News. “Over the past few months, the Cinepolis Vista screenings were often the only way to see films of any reasonable popularity. If MoviePass does not restore the Cinepolis Vista, I do not think renewing MoviePass would be worth the money.”
Lyn Dignam Van Haght, another North County resident, concurred with Hannasch in her assessment of the news.
“That’s a disaster. There’s usually only one to two movies at the movie theatre at the Shoppes in Carlsbad that one can see with MoviePass now,” she said. “Stopping Cinépolis, this could be my cue to stop MoviePass.”
Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at the investment firm Wedbush Securities, said that he is not surprised about the development at the Vista theater. Pachter added that he expects more of things like that to come in the future, in fact, for MoviePass.
“They are spending $10 per ticket and charging $10 per month,” Pachter said via email. “They lose money on every customer who sees more than one film a month (which is all of them).”
In August, Helios & Matheson was sued in a federal class action lawsuit filed by investors for what it alleges was false and misleading marketing about the company’s business model and chance of succeeding as a publicly traded company. The company is also under investigation, for similar reasons, by the Attorney General’s Office in New York.
Representatives for Helios & Matheson did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.
MJ Salcido, senior account director for the firm Murphy O’Brien Public Relations, said that “Cinépolis USA has taken no action to block the acceptance of MoviePass at its theaters” and directed The Coast News to MoviePass for further comment.
Alyssa Allen, spokeswoman for MoviePass and an account executive for the public relations firm LaunchSquad, said, “I’m unable to get you a comment for your story by your deadline” days before the actual deadline.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news ouetlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.