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10 Most Shocking Reveals In Max’s MoviePass Documentary


10 Most Shocking Reveals In Max’s MoviePass Documentary


Summary

  • The rise and fall of MoviePass is showcased in the documentary
    MoviePass, MovieCrash
    , highlighting conflicts and mismanagement.
  • MoviePass founders Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt were fired as the company faced financial struggles and made unwise business decisions.
  • After bankruptcy and fraud investigations, Stacy Spikes bought back MoviePass in 2021, aiming to relaunch and turn it into a successful venture.



HBO Max’s documentary MoviePass, MovieCrash recounts all the shocking twists and turns of the rise and fall of MoviePass, the subscription app that allows users to go to as many movie showings as they want for a monthly fee. The documentary calls MoviePass the “fastest growing company ever in the history of media,” and repeatedly compares the app to Netflix for wanting to achieve a similar cultural transformation. Indeed, the idea behind MoviePass was based on noble intentions of reinvigorating the movie-going business in the age of streaming giants. Following the company’s financial struggles, MoviePass relaunched in 2022.


MoviePass, MovieCrash, showcases the conflicts and mismanagement that went on behind the scenes that led to MoviePass officially shutting down. This included the co-founders Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt, both Black men, being phased out as the faces of MoviePass in favor of white businessmen, namely CEO Mitch Lowe and investor Ted Farnsworth. As MoviePass grew, Spikes and Hamet were demoted and eventually fired from their own company. This and more are among the shocking reveals in Max’s MoviePass, MovieCrash.

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10 AMC Sent A Cease And Desist To MoviePass

MoviePass faced opposition from major movie theaters in its early days.


Spikes built the MoviePass company from the ground up, with crucial help from Watt in fundraising enough money to launch it. Spikes originally envisioned it as a kind of subscription service version of Urbanworld, the film festival he created. When MoviePass first launched in 2011, it faced major opposition from movie theater chains, primarily AMC. This led to the establishment of the MoviePass card, which held prepaid funds for movie tickets.

However, AMC still proved to be a difficult partnership to establish. Spikes and Watt had almost secured a deal until an abrupt change in leadership at AMC set them back. This is when they started to connect with former Netflix and Redbox executive Lowe, who believed he could use his connections in the industry to move MoviePass forward. Despite their concerns about Lowe and changing their board structure, Spikes and Watt decided it was a necessary change for the company’s future.


9 To Get Subscribers, MoviePass Dropped Its Subscription Price to $9.95

To secure subscribers and funding, MoviePass offered a shocking subscription deal.

Subscriber holding out Moviepass card

A few years after its inception, MoviePass’ monthly subscription cost was roughly $40, a reasonable price for anyone aiming to see more than five movies per month. However, the company faced stagnation at around 20,000 subscribers. The executives found themselves stuck in a dead zone where they needed more funding to raise their company’s profile but were unable to get it with so few subscribers. In 2017, HMNY (of which Farnsworth was CEO) offered MoviePass $25 million if they could reach 100,000 subscribers in six months, when it had taken them 5 years to reach 20,000.


In an act of desperation, MoviePass lowered its monthly fee to $10, allowing subscribers to see as many movies as they wanted for roughly the price of one. There was a stampede to sign up, and MoviePass reached its target of 100,000 subscribers in approximately 48 hours, causing website crashes and problems with producing MoviePass cards. While they knew it wasn’t sustainable, Lowe insisted that they keep moving forward and figure it out as they went along.

8 Stacy Spikes & Hamet Watt Were Fired By Mitch Lowe

The founders’ opposition to MoviePass’ new strategy led to them being fired from their company.

Lowe said that he did not believe Spikes and Watt were cut out for such a large business.


As MoviePass continued to offer a low subscription fee at a substantial financial loss, Spikes and Watt stressed the need to raise the monthly fee, with Spikes being the more vocal of the two. Lowe stated in his interview in the documentary that he believed MoviePass would begin to turn a profit when it reached five million subscribers, after which they would have the power to negotiate discounts with movie theaters and sell advertising slots. Lowe said that he did not believe Spikes and Watt were cut out for such a large business.

Spikes and Watt were informed that MoviePass’ board was being restructured and that they were both being removed as board members. Spikes reached out to board member Chris Kelly about the issue, who didn’t respond. Shortly after this, Spikes was fired from the company in an email from Lowe, less than a year after HMNY came on board. Many other employees were devastated by this, but as of 2018, Spikes’ termination was still largely kept under wraps.


7 MoviePass’ Spending & PR Campaigns Increased In 2018

After the founders were fired, MoviePass continued to spend staggering amounts of money.

Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth in Moviepass trailer

While MoviePass, MovieCrash highlights Spikes being fired more than Watt, it is implied that they received notices of employment termination around the same time. Meanwhile, in 2018, MoviePass was spending absurd amounts of money on parties and other PR stunts, all overseen by Lowe and Farnsworth. They also began to discuss producing their own movies, as streaming services did. From the outside, Spikes and Watt were unable to sell their still highly-valued shares for a certain amount of time, and could only hope that they maintained their value until they were able to sell out.


The current executives gave many interviews, saying that MoviePass would soon become self-sufficient, but Spikes said in his interview that he was skeptical of their confidence. However, MoviePass parties continued to be the hottest events in the business while the company’s employees were superstars. Everyone was certain MoviePass would be the next Netflix, but it would all come crashing down.

6 MoviePass’ Gotti Starring John Travolta Got 0% On Rotten Tomatoes

MoviePass’s exorbitant spending included producing a movie that failed spectacularly.

Lowe and Farnsworth in front of Gotti poster in Moviepass trailer

MoviePass hoped to be the next Netflix, in every way imaginable. However, spending money on an original movie was decidedly not the right move in 2018 when the executives were spending on every other thing they could imagine. A biographical crime drama starring John Travolta sounds like something that would succeed, in theory. MoviePass produced this movie in the hopes of establishing a new source of revenue.


Gotti is a biopic about crime boss John Gotti, and its reviews are astoundingly bad. Its Rotten Tomatoes score remains at 0%, while its Audience score is 44% and Metacritic is 24%. The event was a clear testament that Lowe and Farnsworth had too much confidence in their own ability to succeed at just about everything when they had no idea what they were doing. Gotti only added to the pile of mounting losses, and MoviePass employees were more worried than ever.

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5 MoviePass Held A Massive Coachella Party While Customer Service Was Struggling

The worst of MoviePass’ spending was an unnecessary Coachella trip.


However, it can be argued that everything came to a head in terms of MoviePass’ spending, allegedly for legitimate PR purposes, with the company’s presence at Coachella. Influencer Og Bunny was flown out to attend the festival and a MoviePass party, which Dennis Rodman also inexplicably attended. Both celebrities, as well as Lowe and Farnsworth, were constantly photographed at parties wearing MoviePass merchandise. Even Og Bunny gives the impression of the whole thing being a confusing whirlwind.

Meanwhile, MoviePass office employees were baffled. They were still understaffed, overwhelmed with customer service calls, and lacked basic office supplies, while the chief executives were spending massive amounts of money at an event that was not even for the movie industry. Furthermore, it was later discovered that another MoviePass executive Khalid Itum embezzled at least $260,000 from MoviePass and HMNY in connection with the Coachella party.


4 MoviePass’ 10-K Revealed That It Lost $150 Million In A Year

Hard evidence of MoviePass’ business problems came in the form of its tax records.

Moviepass employee in Moviepass Moviecrash

Spikes and Watt’s shares were originally worth tens of millions of dollars; by the time MoviePass filed bankruptcy, they amounted to pennies.

As a public business, MoviePass was required to release its 10-K, which revealed the true extent of the company’s losses. Within the year since Lowe and Farnsworth took over, the company lost more than $150 million, averaging around $30 million a month. Spikes said that while the young company was still in his hands, they were losing around $200,000 a month. At this point, because MoviePass’ problems were public knowledge, investors were starting to worry.


Journalist Jason Guerrasio (who is also an executive producer for MoviePass, MovieCrash) highlighted the company’s losses. Predictably, MoviePass’ stock plummeted with the release of the 10-K and the subsequent media questioning the company’s executives. Spikes and Watt’s shares were originally worth tens of millions of dollars; by the time MoviePass filed bankruptcy, they amounted to pennies. This all happened within the time before the original founders were able to sell their stock.

3 MoviePass Ultimately Crashed With Mission: Impossible – Fallout

When MoviePass couldn’t deliver on a blockbuster’s opening, subscribers started to retaliate.


While Farnsworth continued to act as though everything was fine, Lowe started to oversee some restrictions and changes to the MoviePass subscription in an attempt to salvage the business. However, even Lowe eventually handed control over to Itum after going through a divorce. MoviePass now restricted how many movies a subscriber could see, what movies they could, and what days they were able to see them. Limitations like these might have helped the company in the beginning, but by now it was far too late.

Things came to a head when Mission: Impossible – Fallout premiered and the app was largely defunct due to the staff being unable to keep up with demand. In MoviePass, MovieCrash, MoviePass employees recount the astounding amounts of hate mail they began to receive at the office from angry customers. Lowe knew that the problem could not be forestalled any longer and went to Farnsworth, saying they needed to raise $5 million. When Farnsworth said it was impossible, both MoviePass and HMNY were forced to declare bankruptcy.


2 MoviePass Became The Center Of A Fraud Investigation

After it went bankrupt, the FBI investigated how MoviePass misled its customers and investors.

Theodore Farnsworth MoviePass copy

Following MoviePass’ collapse, Spikes and Hamet were contacted by the FBI, who were investigating claims of fraud from MoviePass subscribers. Lowe and Farnsworth settled in 2021, although they never admitted to intentionally misleading their customers. As part of the investigation, more holes in both executives’ pasts became apparent: Lowe gave the impression of having a different role in the creation of Netflix than he did, while Farnsworth was a wild investor in various businesses, with repetitive (possibly paid for) defensive articles published about him.


The investigation also highlighted that Lowe and Farnsworth constantly said in interviews that MoviePass would soon be very profitable to keep their investors on board. In 2022, they were both indicted on charges of securities fraud and wire fraud, and both pleaded guilty. As of May 2024, they are both still awaiting trial. Perhaps more than anything, these charges demonstrate how Lowe and Farnsworth destroyed the brand Spikes and Watt worked so hard to build.

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1 Stacy Spikes Bought Back MoviePass In 2021

Spikes is working to turn MoviePass into the company it should’ve been.


After leaving MoviePass, Watt went on to establish the venture studio Share Ventures. On the other hand, Spikes heard that MoviePass was up for action in the summer of 2021, and made a bid to successfully buy back the company. He began working to relaunch MoviePass; in 2023, the company had its first profitable year since it originally launched in 2011. It is by no means as big as the streaming giants, but it has only recently been re-established — it could still become massively successful.

MoviePass, MovieCrash highlights how Spikes and Watt have served as major inspirations to many people, especially young entrepreneurs and professionals of color. MoviePass’ future is still uncertain, but 2023 was arguably its best year yet. In the age of streaming services, the concept of MoviePass is still valuable because of how it can help movie theaters. The company and its founders were done a severe injustice, but it is hopefully still possible for them to make MoviePass a legitimate pillar of the movie industry.


MoviePass, MovieCrash (2024) - Poster

MoviePass, MovieCrash (2024)

Max’s documentary showcasing the rise and fall of the movie subscription app MoviePass, leading to its hopeful new beginning.

Director
Muta’Ali Muhammad

Release Date
March 9, 2024

Studio(s)
HBO Documentary Films , Unrealistic Ideas , Nightbrain Pictures , Tower Way , Assemble Media

Cast
Stacy Spikes , Hamet Watt , Ted Farnsworth

Runtime
96 Minutes

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