We’ve always known—in a deep, instinctual way—that MoviePass, a business that began with selling movie tickets to millions of people for less than they paid for them, and then just sort of spiraled out from there, was probably not the most functional business in existence. Even so, a new piece published in Business Insider this week, collecting several months of interviews with mostly anonymous former employees of said sinking garbage barge, reveals that things were even more deliberately fucked up than we might have assumed. It’s a story so full of apparent intentional mismanagement that it somehow manages to suck in other disasters with a kind of perverse magnetic pull—how else to explain how Gotti, FuckJerry, and more have managed to be slurped into its space-trash orbit?
Among the allegations in the piece: That the company’s efforts to keep its hemorrhaging cash flow extant included instituting a “trip wire” that would kick in almost every day, canceling all future movie showings as soon as the day’s cash reserves ran out. That investors-turned-head-executives Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth—the latter of whom also has La Toya Jackson’s Psychic Discovery network on his resumé—fired original cofounder Stacy Spikes because he kept insisting that its much-hyped $10-per-month subscription fee would rapidly bankrupt the company. (Hey-hey!) That Lowe ordered employees to change the passwords of a small set of “power users” in order to keep them from going to see Avengers: Infinity War on its opening weekend. That they helped pay to get Gotti released. (That last one’s on the record, at least.)
Lowe dreaded the company’s power users, those high-volume MoviePass customers who were taking advantage of the low monthly price, constantly going to the movies, and effectively cleaning the company out. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, the average moviegoer goes to the movies five times a year. The power users would go to the movies every day.
“Before Mitch came on it was, ‘How do we slow down those users?’” one former employee said. “With Mitch it was just, ‘F—- those guys.’”
In other words, a certified clusterfuck, from focusing company cash on promoting a pointless Big Boi concert at the iHeartRadio festival, to the executive fired for harassing staff at movie premieres, to the various corporate jets and luxuries being indulged in even as it became ever-more miraculous for a day to go by without the “trip wire” being hit. It’s not a new story, exactly, but it’s certainly a high-profile variation on an old one.
MoviePass still technically exists, although its stock price is sitting in the garbage, right next to most people’s subscription cards. The company is currently “on hiatus” as it “updates its app,” which should come as a great comfort to all the subscribers that they “allegedly lied to and screwed over through a combination of short-sightedness, apparently intentional plundering, and good-old-fashioned American stupidity.” (Good news for everyone in those class-action suits, though, huh?)