By the time everyone was getting shut out of screenings for the latest Mission: Impossible movie, MoviePass had become an easy target. But focusing too hard on the faulty app and the broken promises clouds the whole truth, which is that for a beautiful period of time in 2018, MoviePass made going to the movies easier, cheaper, and altogether better. With that in mind, two (former) MoviePass devotees, Rob Harvilla and Lindsay Zoladz, are honoring the first entries into the MoviePass Hall of Fame, reserved for the films, people, and weird things they would not have seen had they been forced to pay full price for a movie ticket.
Best Use of the Song “Proud Mary” in a Movie: Proud Mary (The Movie)
I signed up for MoviePass in January as part of a half-assed New Year’s resolution to go to the theater at least once a week, so naturally I kicked off that project by watching Taraji P. Henson—whose proud character’s name is Mary—shoot, like, three dozen guys in two minutes, grimacing amidst the Looney Tunes CGI bullet holes whilst Tina Turner wails, well, you know. John Fogerty, writer and original singer of the song “Proud Mary,” was even less amused by this cheerfully brainless crime thriller than the relatively few people who watched it. As for me, I spent the whole 90 minutes wondering if I should’ve opted for Liam Neeson’s The Commuter instead, in my first, but definitely not my last, encounter with FOMPA, a.k.a. Fear of MoviePassing Abominably. —Rob Harvilla
Legitimately the Best Thing I Saw This Year Using MoviePass: Cold Water
Even though MoviePass enabled me to see such garbage movies as Gotti, Uncle Drew, and The Snowman without the shame of having paid full price for a ticket, I did also use it to see some excellent films that do not deserve to be mentioned in this same sentence, so I’m about to put a period right here. Perhaps the most profound theatergoing experience I had this year was when I finally got to see the French director Olivier Assayas’s beautifully angsty 1994 movie Cold Water—one of the most vivid and visceral depictions of adolescence I’ve ever seen on screen. At least in the U.S., Cold Water couldn’t screen in its original form for many years because of an extended (and incredible) party scene that makes use of a bunch of ’60s and ’70s rock songs that were really difficult to clear (most memorably, Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”), but it finally had a revival run this summer. Criterion did release Cold Water on DVD in September, but I’m grateful I got to experience it first in a theater with a professional sound system. For once, a sincere thanks, MoviePass. —Lindsay Zoladz
Single Weirdest Thing I Got to See for “Free” Thanks to an Industry-Disrupting Scheme: The Alien-Dance Climax of Annihilation
This is easily my single greatest and most confounding MoviePass moment: I felt like I was getting away with something extraordinary, and also I had no idea what the hell was happening. Possible interpretation: Natalie Portman represents the theater-subscription model’s headstrong idealism, and the shiny alien represents its harsh economic reality. Squish them together and you get a broken app that offers only one 2:30 a.m. screening of The Equalizer 2 per day. In any event, when I’d lovingly scroll through the movie-poster stills in my “history” tab, Annihilation was my favorite. (My least-favorite was The First Purge, which I did not actually see. They should add an “edit” feature to your history. They should also make it so that MoviePass isn’t bad now.) —RH
Best Capitalism-Smashing Act of Defiance: Checking in for The First Purge but Going to See Sorry to Bother You Instead
The Sorry to Bother You screening I wanted wasn’t showing up on the MoviePass app, you see. How could that be? Was I the first person in America to encounter technical issues with this service? I mulled this over as I winked theatrically at the bored ticket-taker lady and checked in for the 14th sequel in a franchise I’m too horror-movie skittish to experience in any way, shape, or form. It was easily the most subversive thing I’d done since my buddies and I tried to toilet-paper a post office mailbox after a 1996 Rage Against the Machine concert. (Fun fact: The rounded shape and eerie smoothness of a blue suburban post office mailbox is expressly designed to frustrate all efforts to toilet-paper it.) Shout-out to Boots Riley, whom I still revere and who can definitely relate, even if I technically cost him money. —RH
Most Profound Realization I Had This Year Thanks to MoviePass: Captain Von Trapp Was a Zaddy?
MoviePass was great for repertory showings. I’m not sure I would have paid full price to see The Sound of Music, a movie I proudly own on DVD (come at me, Pauline Kael). But when it was showing at a theater near my neighborhood on a boring Sunday afternoon I was sure as hell going to go see it with a few friends and my trusty MoviePass card. We sang, we cried, we booed the Nazis—a depressingly cathartic and relevant act in 2018. Watching The Sound of Music never fails to fill me with childlike joy, but after this viewing I had a few more adult observations. Like: “Is Captain Von Trapp … a zaddy?” I asked my friend Abby immediately after the movie was over. She should have said, “You bet your edelweiss,” but this was real life so I think what she said was more along the lines of, “Oh definitely, I was thinking the same thing.” You’re welcome.
Best Kids Movie We Only Saw to Keep the Kids From Tearing the House Up on a Saturday Morning: Early Man
There were three other dads with kids in the theater, and I imagine we thought and did the exact same thing in getting to that point, down to awkwardly stumbling through the “get one MoviePass ticket, but then buy the two reserved seats right next to it” process. (The movie itself was no Chicken Run, but it’s certainly the best film I’ve ever seen about cavemen learning to play soccer.) —RH
Best Piece of MoviePass Merch: Hat Damon
Thursday, June 28, began like any other day at Ringer HQ, but then at exactly 4:50 p.m. EST it took a turn for the unforgettable. For that is when I received an email that changed my life forever; one that I was compelled to share with my colleagues in our staff Slack channel—“omg there’s moviepass merch,” I wrote, linking to an online store that, I am astonished to learn, still exists. Although the designs were simple—literally just shirts, baseball caps, and a mug that said “moviepass”—the names they had given these items were anything but. Take for example “Shirty Dancing,” a red MoviePass tee that I guess they could not be bothered to iron before taking a photo of it for the online store. Ditto “Shirt Russel” and his long-sleeved brother “Sleeves Like Us.” But then we saw it, like a beacon in the night:
Hat. Damon. Hat Damon. A collective gasp went up in our New York office, and Ringer staff across the country voiced their reactions. “lmao who would buy this” wrote Riley McAtee. “would you want the merch, even for free?” asked Haley O’Shaughnessy. “hat damon,” said Andrew Gruttadaro, correctly. “i would buy the hat if it said ‘hat damon.’”
Post-script: Months later, at the movies of all places, I actually saw a real live human person wearing Hat Damon. Or was it 10 Things I Hat About You? My only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to ask. —LZ
Most Gratifying Customer-Service Experience: Finally Getting My Full-Price Ticket to Ant-Man and the Wasp Reimbursed
By July, of course, the app was in shambles as a user experience, especially if one was, theoretically, trying to check into a Marvel movie on a Friday night, and if one eventually gave up and just bought a regular ticket, like some kind of chump. But all I had to do was scour MoviePass’s various fine-print menus, finally give up and Google the answer, take a picture of my ticket stub, email that picture to what I just assumed was a separate Ponzi scheme embedded within the larger Ponzi scheme, and then send a couple of follow-up emails. Confession: I enjoyed this process way more than Infinity War. —RH
The Moment I Really Knew It Was Over: The Email From the Director of Barketing
I mean, I’m just gonna leave this here.
i see that MoviePass is really getting its act together pic.twitter.com/RmV4bfntL3— Lindsay Zoladz (@lindsayzoladz) November 8, 2018
Top Five Movies I Really Wanted to Watch Via MoviePass but Wasn’t Allowed to Because of the App, Finally Prompting Me to Give Up and Compose This Tweet
5. Crazy Rich Asians: Only available if I was willing to go to the suckiest theater in town, at 2:30 a.m.
4. Hotel Transylvania 3: Worse than Early Man, but my kids liked it better.
3. Incredibles 2: Every time I typed this into the search bar, I swear I could hear my phone laughing.
2. Eighth Grade: This is the one that broke me. When MoviePass bottomed out in late July, a.k.a. the night Mission: Impossible — Fallout ceased to exist, I hung on for several weeks specifically to see this movie, but no, my only options were The Meg or The Spy Who Dumped Me, every day, until I finally said the hell with it. I suppose I should’ve just pulled a Sorry to Bother You and checked into one of those.
1. Mission: Impossible — Fallout: Obviously. —RH
Most Fitting Final MoviePass Experience: Not Seeing Boy Erased
I held on for much longer than most people, but in late October I finally grew tired of checking the app in the morning and already seeing “No More Screenings Available At This Theater” messages for every single theater in the greater New York area. So I quit MoviePass, stupidly, right at the beginning of a new billing cycle. This meant that from mid-October until mid-November, I had credits to see three more movies… and that I saw zero, because over the course of an entire month I could not find a single showing when the app was working for a movie I wanted to see. (This is remarkable, given how low my standards are for “movies I want to see.”) Then, on November 18, 2018, the final day of my MoviePass subscription, a miracle occurred: the app was showing an available afternoon screening of Boy Erased, a movie I actually wanted to see, at a theater a short walk away from my house. At last! I got ready to go, and right before I left the apartment I checked MoviePass one last time. The screening, it informed me, was no longer available. What a fitting end to this journey. I know I could have paid to see the movie, but instead I decided to stay in, chip away at my FilmStruck watchlist, and contemplate the ephemerality of all truly good things. —LZ