Analysis: MoviePass users are furious at an email playfully sent to them by the company's “Director of Barketing.”
As you might have heard, MoviePass has gone to the dogs. Literally.
The movie subscription service made a splash in 2017 when it offered a seemingly insane deal: Pay $120 for the year and see up to 365 movies, one a day, at nearly any theater in the United States. For a moment, the service shone – but it very quickly came crashing down.
Its demise is well documented, so here are the CliffsNotes: It didn’t have enough money to keep up with its massive growth, so it raised the prices of a subscription while limiting what movies people would watch. At one point, it ran out of money and borrowed $5 million in cash to stay afloat. It was also recently spun off from its parent company, Helios and Matheson, which is facing a fraud investigation and a class-action lawsuit.
MoviePass repeatedly earned the ire of its subscribers for not communicating about these issues quickly and transparently. Seemingly to make up for that, the service sent its users one of the more bizarre (and vague) mea culpas in corporate history Wednesday evening.
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The email’s subject line was normal enough. It read: “We’re listening. We’re learning. We’re changing.”
The email itself, though, featured a large photo of a puppy wearing a scarf bearing the word “moviepass.” Above it, in large letters, read, “A Letter from the Director of Barketing.”
“Woof! I’m Chloe, the Director of Barketing at MoviePass,” the message began. “I’d like to explain why from time to time you may have had a ‘ruff’ experience with us but it turns out that I’m a dog and I can’t talk. What I do know is that I see these humans working like crazy to make MoviePass better and better for you as fast as possible. They are so grateful for your membership and support while they work it out.”
The email did not go over well with MoviePass subscribers, most of whom are barely using the service at this point because of its lack of functionality – a fact that actually seems just fine to Helios and Matheson chief executive Ted Farnsworth.
“Are you mocking your consumers?” asked one user on Twitter. “I’m very confused by this email.”
“DO NOT PANDER TO ME WITH A CUTE DOG. It’s insulting and I hate you even more now,” wrote another.
“I guess I’m paying $9.99/month for occasional emails from an adorable dog. I’ve been patient with MoviePass, but ~100% of the time I have checked my local preferred theater last month or two, absolutely 0 movies are an option,” wrote a third.
Yet another wrote that the service “has upgraded the classic ‘blame your farts on the dog’ ploy to ‘blame your flawed business model & abysmal customer service on the dog.'”
One just wrote “Really” along with two question marks and the middle finger emoji.
Media outlets weren’t much kinder.
“Something tells me that Chloe is gonna have to do a lot more than listening, learning, and changing to turn MoviePass around – Like digging up $300 million in pirate gold someone left in the backyard,” wrote Gizmodo’s Tom McKay.
In a piece titled “MoviePass, what are you doing??,” Mashable’s Angie Han wrote, “Apparently, all that ‘listening’ and ‘learning’ and ‘changing’ that MoviePass claims it’s doing has resulted in little more than vague promises and silly dog puns. What’s more, the dog herself admits that she can’t explain WTF happened with MoviePass. … It’s basically a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to all the customers fed up with getting” messed “around.”
The Verge’s Tasha Robinson, who called the email “so incredibly tone-deaf,” wrote its “cutesy, disingenuous tone, and its utterly vague reassurances of positive changes to come, are reminders of the company’s history of disrespect toward its user base: making up nonsensical numbers to overstate its value to movie theaters; shutting down access to specific theaters and specific films without warning to manipulate the market; gathering data on its users and then claiming it never meant to use that info; billing users even after they cancel; and hand-waving unpopular decisions in corporate emails blaming app failures and technological glitches.”