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MoviePass relaunching “unlimited” plan, blames user fraud for previous troubles

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MoviePass is making another bid for relevance. The once wildly popular, seemingly too good to be true “Netflix for movie theaters” hit peak usage during the days of its “unlimited” plan, which allowed you to see one movie per day in theaters for around $10 per month. Usage waned as the cash-strapped company added restrictions and raised prices. Now, MoviePass is bringing back the unlimited plan – with some caveats. In an interview with the New York Post, MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson’s CEO, Ted Farnsworth, said user fraud was behind the service’s troubles last summer.

From New York Post:

MoviePass is relaunching its popular $10-a-month subscription with new fraud detections in place to stop the 20 percent of users who abused the system, Farnsworth told The Post. He cited the binge-watching of the same films over and over; buying tickets for friends and family not on the plan and, in some cases, buying a movie ticket just “to go to the restroom in Times Square.”

“It definitely would have been a different story if we knew last summer what we know now,” he said. “We never had anything in place so that we could test those systems. Right now, we know so much more, we’re so much smarter.”

Last year’s abuse by 20 percent of users led to “tens of millions” of dollars in losses for the company, Farnsworth said. That triggered the company’s to blackout certain films as it ran out of money to buy tickets, which led to people canceling their subscriptions.

The $10 per month plan will be available to users who purchase an annual subscription, while monthly subscription prices will be higher. And as the site states, “your movie choices may be restricted due to excessive individual usage which negatively impacts system-wide capacity.” Under its terms and conditions, MoviePass now reserves the right to use “Location Services to confirm that the Subscriber is actually attending the selected movie and showtime by verifying the Subscriber’s location at the theater at both the start of the movie and at any time during the selected movie.”

In other MoviePass-related news, the service’s cofounding CEO, Stacy Spikes, stepped down from the company in 2016, and is now working on his own ad-supported free movie ticket service. He’s launched a Kickstarter for PreShow, which touts that its users can watch “first-run movies, in theaters – absolutely free. No blackout periods.” In order to do so, they’d need to watch 15-20 minutes of advertising – with facial recognition technology in place to make sure you’re really watching.

From CNET:

“If it weren’t for facial recognition, I don’t think we could still do it,” Stacy Spikes, the founder and chief executive of PreShow, said in an interview last week. “If not, they could game this all day long.”

Forgoing a password, PreShow’s app will only unlock with your phone’s facial recognition technology. And while you’re watching the ads to earn that free ticket, your phone’s camera monitors your level of attention. Walk away or even obscure part of your face? The ad will pause after five seconds.

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