MoviePass reportedly changed certain users' passwords to stop them from buying tickets

(Image credit: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for MoviePass)

The behind-the-scenes story of MoviePass' past two years is just about as wild — and shady — as you would expect.

Business Insider this week released a report following a four-month investigation of the film subscription service, which attracted an influx of users in 2017 after announcing subscribers could now see one movie in theaters per day for the insane price of $9.95 per month. Of course, just about everyone pointed out at the time that this was a laughably unsustainable business model seeing as users just had to see two movies a month for MoviePass to be losing money, or even just one for those who live in a major city.

So as the company predictably began to hemorrhage cash, CEO Mitch Lowe made it his mission to disrupt the service of users who went to the movies very frequently. In among the most jaw-dropping details flagged by Slashfilm, Lowe reportedly "ordered that the passwords of a small percentage of power users be changed, preventing them from logging onto the app and ordering tickets."

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The report goes on to say that the weekend of Mission: Impossible — Fallout's release in July 2018, Lowe ordered "half of subscribers be frozen out." MoviePass at the time pointed to a "technical issue." As the company was on the verge of collapse that summer, it also introduced what was reportedly referred to as a "trip wire" system, under which the entire service would shut down after a certain account balance was reached. According to inside sources, what that threshold was depended entirely on the day and was essentially just a "guessing game."

A compliance counsel expert at the Department of Justice spoke with Business Insider and said that the business practices uncovered in this report are "certainly unethical and could be illegal." MoviePass announced in July it was suspending service, supposedly due to technical problems, but it's unclear when, or if, it will return.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.