How MoviePass went from a Hollywood disrupter to flat broke in 18 months

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  • A four-month investigation by Business Insider chronicles the rise and fall of the movie-ticket-subscription startup MoviePass.
  • The $10-a-month price change done in August of 2017 helped MoviePass become a sensation, but it also led to the ousting of its founder Stacy Spikes — and the use of questionable tactics to keep the company afloat.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


For a fleeting moment, MoviePass was the biggest disrupter in the movie business. 

The movie-ticket-subscription startup gobbled up millions of subscribers when it lowered its monthly subscription price from around $50 a month to $10. But in just 18 months, the company was an afterthought. 

A four-month investigation by Business Insider chronicles the rise and fall of MoviePass.

We start at its scrappy beginnings with founder Stacy Spikes, who, after getting no support from the major theaters for years, created from scratch a service that let anyone see any movie they wanted at any theater thanks to a pre-paid debit card. We continue the story as the company, starving for money, is taken over by Florida businessman Ted Farnsworth and his firm, Helios and Matheson Analytics. In August 2017, Farnsworth comes up with the idea of changing the price to $10 a month to see if the startup can become the Netflix of cinemas.

That price drop leads to the ousting of Spikes, who never believed in the $10-a-month plan working, and MoviePass burning through hundreds of millions of dollars to keep going. But MoviePass’ new leadership has fun in the process, throwing events at Coachella in 2018 that bring out the likes of Dennis Rodman (who shows up in a MoviePass helicopter), and hiring Jerry Media to do the company’s social media (the same Jerry Media that handled social media for the doomed Fyre Festival).

But when money gets really thin, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe and Farnsworth use questionable tactics to keep the company going, like blocking subscribers out of their accounts, according to multiple sources Business Insider spoke to for this story.

Subscribe to Business Insider Prime to read the definitive story of how MoviePass imploded and burned through hundreds of millions in the process.

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