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MoviePass adds surge pricing as competitors launch rival services

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MoviePass, the “Netflix for movie theaters” type service that lets subscribers go see one movie a day in theaters for around $10 a month, has proven to be wildly popular with moviegoers. Here in NYC, it seems like everyone is using it, and why not when some chain theaters are charging $17 for the first showing of the day of a regular 2D film. But it’s also a too-good-to-be-true thing that most people feel can’t last. And they’re starting to add restrictions. In order to curtail ticket sharing/scalping, MoviePass stopped letting subscribers buy tickets to a movie they’ve already seen with the service, and are making some of us take a photo of the ticket stub and upload it to prove you used it.

Today it was announced that MoviePass would institute surge-pricing starting in July, where an additional fee would be added to high-demand times, such as opening weekend of a big summer blockbuster. MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told Business Insider that surge fees would start at $2. Surge fees, as of now, will only apply to monthly subscribers (not yearly subscribers). MoviePass says it plans to keep its $9.95 monthly price, and add options for 3D and Imax, and the ability to bring a friend, which is something a lot of subscribers would like added. UPDATE (6/25): Moviepass sent an email to subscribers over the weekend, saying that the following will “slowly roll out to all our members over the next several weeks”:

Bring-A-Guest: MoviePass members will be able to purchase extra tickets to a showing of a movie right through the MoviePass app, so that you can seamlessly reserve seats for you and your friends (at e-ticketing partner theaters) to watch a film even if they aren’t MoviePass subscribers. As a benefit, if your friend signs up for MoviePass within 24 hours, we’ll refund the entire cost of the ticket!

Peak Pricing: MoviePass is committed to maintaining our low monthly price as we continue to grow rapidly. Rather than raise our prices or limit viewings, our plan has been to develop a new variable pricing system based on the demand for particular showtimes. Under this plan, if the combination of demand for a title, date or part of day is higher, subscribers may be asked to pay a small additional fee depending on the level of demand. You can avoid this peak surcharge by choosing an alternative date or film. We will also soon give subscribers one “peak pass” per month, allowing them to waive a Peak Price surcharge once per month. Annual and Quarterly subscribers will not incur peak pricing until their current subscription term ends and then renews.

Premium Showings: MoviePass members on any plan will soon be able to access RealD 3D, IMAX 2D or 3D, and other Premium Large Format showings of any film for an additional upgrade fee.

Despite its popularity, Moviepass is operating at a big loss — parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics announced recentlythat MoviePass’ monthly losses hit $40 million in May and they expect it to reach $45 million by June.

Meanwhile a couple of rival services have launched. AMC Theaters now has a subscription service called AMC Stubs A-List that will cost $19.95 a month and will let members see up to three movies a week in their theaters.

There is also Sinemia, which is similar to Moviepass but nowhere near as sweet a deal (basic plans at $4.99/$6.99 for one/two tickets per month to traditional 2D movies) but they have just announced Family Plans for two to six people (details here).

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