Film In Depth

How Moviepass Can Fund a Vintage Habit

I’ve been happily chugging along with my Moviepass usage for the past few months, cheerfully heading off to see all manner of misguided summer sequels, questionable comedies, and, yes, even a few mainstream gems I probably wouldn’t have bothered to see otherwise, had I been paying for each one rather than seeing them all under a monthly fee.

[If you’re not familiar with the service, you pay a monthly fee (around $30) to Moviepass and, in turn, receive mostly unlimited access to movies at any of their participating theaters–which include chains like AMC, Cinemark, and Regal. The limits are that you can only see each movie once, and you can only see one movie a day. But other than that, you could conceivably see a new movie every day of the month.]

Part of the reason I was hesitant to embrace the service was that, initially, it was only available in a few select chains of theaters, namely, Arclight and Pacific. While these theaters do cover a fairly diverse range of movies, you’d still be pretty much limited to new releases. Now, I like new releases, and I watched a lot of new releases even before Moviepass (which is mostly why I signed up). But I was also wary about having to make the decision between seeing Scary Movie 16 for free, or paying 12 bucks to see Sunset Blvd for the billionth time. Happily, with Moviepass’s new format, that decision is even more obvious.

Luckily, I have the happy fortune to live in Los Angeles, where the Moviepass team has done a great job of adding repertory theaters in addition to the more mainstream fare. In LA, Moviepass covers the New Beverly, the Egyptian and Aero, and the Downtown Independent, along with a few theaters that regularly screen vintage midnight movies. That’s a wealth of theaters to start with, to be sure, but a few of them have been added only recently–which hopefully means they’re actively pursuing theaters to pocket for their collection.

In the past few months with Moviepass, I’ve seen everything from Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding to Orson Welles’ The Trial, a Road to double feature, and Crimes and Misdemeanors with Martin Landau in person. And–perhaps an even greater rarity–the majority of my vintage viewings have been projected in 35mm. The big downside is that you have to be in the GPS-recognized vicinity of the theater for Moviepass to allow you to buy your ticket–which means no advance or online sales. Usually the theaters here are big enough that they’ll have a seat for you, but if I’m unwilling to chance it, I have bought a few online ahead of time, just like the old days.

This experience is all, of course, dependent on the availability of Moviepass in your area’s theaters. I can heartily recommend it for fans of vintage movies in LA, but outside of that… I’m not so sure. A cursory glance at New York theaters showed that Film Society of Lincoln Center is available, and indie darlings like IFC Center and the Angelika, but not Film Forum or the Landmark Sunshine. That’s mostly understandable–the other big daddies of vintage film in New York are housed within larger institutions, and I can’t imagine MoMA or the Museum of the Moving Image would want to potentially reduce their membership numbers by offering up screenings to Moviepass goers. But it still limits the options.

If you’re outside of those hubs, it gets a bit more dicey, but if you’re lucky enough to still have at least one vintage theater in the area, you can check with Moviepass to see if they’re covered before signing up.

Alternatively, if your vintage theater isn’t covered, or you don’t have one in the area, I’ve also discovered that with Moviepass I’m seeing a lot more new releases in general, which frees me up for watching more vintage movies at other times. Because Moviepass limits you to seeing each movie once, there are often times in the month where I can’t go to the theater because I’ve already seen everything–so that’s a perfect night for a vintage film, whereas in the past I might’ve been using that time to rent the new releases I’d missed in theaters a few months prior.

Anyway, if you’re thinking about Moviepass, I’d caution you to evaluate your own movie spending habits first, since they operate on the assumption that some people will underutilize the service. If you aren’t already used to seeing a movie a week, it may be hard to start the habit, and you risk paying a monthly fee for a service you don’t use. But if you are already spending more than $30 on movies theatrically, like I was (and then some), Moviepass can be a great tool to have in your arsenal–even if your interests skew more towards Fred & Ginger than Dom & Brian.

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