Snapchat now lets you send musical GIFs

Music GIF provider TuneMoji has announced that it’s integrated within Snapchat, as reported by Business Insider. This means that users with the TuneMoji app installed can send clips to their Snap story, or within a chat.

A TuneMoji GIFs adds a layer of music (or spoken audio) that is looped along with the GIF. TuneMoji sort of works like Giphy with a searchable database of GIFs and you can search by words or phrases, or by emoji. Once you select the musical GIF you want, you then choose where you want to share it — and Snapchat now pops up as an option.

The company was able to integrate into Snapchat via the platform’s new developer kit, Snap Kit. Launched in June, Snap Kit allows developers to bring core features of Snapchat to their apps. But there are limitations. While TuneMoji GIFs can be shared on Snapchat, it can’t be done within Snapchat itself. You have to push these GIFs to Snapchat from within the TuneMoji app, which is kind of a bummer. TuneMoji CEO James Fabricant says it is working on closer integrations not just with Snapchat, but all its messaging partners too.

Even with this drawback, the TuneMoji GIFs are fun. So, if you want to Snap your friend a GIF of a wiggling corgi set to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” — now you can.

MoviePass refunds annual subscribers as it further restricts member benefits

The struggling movie subscription service MoviePass has sent an email to members who have annual subscriptions, forcing them onto the same terms as monthly subscribers and offering them prorated refunds if they want to cancel their membership instead.

“We want to thank you for being a loyal member of our annual MoviePass plan. Your commitment to MoviePass has contributed to making our vision for an accessible and affordable moviegoing experience a reality,” reads the email. “After experimenting with different models and options, we believe that our current monthly plan captures the need of our community — keeping prices low while continually striving to offer a wider selection of films.”

The measure is a continuation of the company’s plan to slow its significant cash outflow, per recent subscription changes announced earlier this month. The new plan, which previously only affected month-to-month subscribers, restricts users to seeing three movies every 30 days, rather than the previous movie-per-day plan. That restriction coincided with a broad policy on blacking out member access to wide-release first-run films, starting with Mission: Impossible — Fallout in July.

Typically, companies only significantly change service terms for existing members on their renewal dates, with the assumption that members signed on under one set of terms and are guaranteed those terms for the duration of their service. Until now, annual MoviePass subscribers have been immune to the service changes hitting monthly users. MoviePass only offered the annual subscription during limited time offers periods last fall, mostly as a way to lock members into a longer contract. It’s revived the plan sporadically with strange partnership offers attached, usually for brief windows of time, since then.

The monthly MoviePass fee is $9.95, but the temporary annual deal cost $89.95 up front. Over the ensuing nine months, MoviePass has changed its service drastically, most notably by introducing surge pricing and ticket verification, altering both the price of its subscription and the number of movies members can see per month. Most recently, it restricted members to a limited menu of available films.

Throughout this tumultuous period, annual subscribers have seen comparatively little change. But, effectively, MoviePass is now canceling all annual plans and reinstating them as monthly ones that remain paid out until December.

The company says this will help it “expand its offering” of films:

As of today, aligned with Section 2.4 of our Terms of Use, your annual subscription plan will now allow you to see 3 movies a month instead of the previous unlimited offering, and you’ll receive up to a $5.00 discount on any additional movie tickets purchased. This is the current standard plan now in effect for all current and new subscribers. Unless you choose to cancel your subscription prematurely, your plan will continue within these guidelines through the end of your annual contract. Additionally, in making these adjustments to our annual plans, we intend to expand our offering of blockbuster and independent films so you can discover a wider variety of movies.

The company is citing its Terms of Use because it knows changing the terms of a contract prior to the renewal date may subject it to a class action lawsuit. (Shareholders are already suing MoviePass’ parent company for fraud.) MoviePass’ terms, however, state that any portion of its service can be changed or “interrupted” as it so pleases. According to the official disclaimer section of the company’s December 2017 Terms of Use, provided to The Verge by MoviePass, “Your sole remedy against MoviePass for dissatisfaction with the service, site or any content is to stop using the service, site or such content.”

It’s unclear whether this would hold up in court, but MoviePass clearly wants to keep its annual members placated. “If this new plan no longer aligns with your viewing preferences, we completely understand and would be happy to offer you a refund for the remainder of your annual subscription,” reads the email.

MoviePass is giving annual members one week, until August 31st, to either cancel their plan or accept the new monthly subscription and conditions. But for annual and monthly members alike, the service has been close to useless since at least mid-July, when MoviePass began blacking out new films seemingly across the board. Since then, the service has suffered outages and imposed full-scale theater blackouts. The good news: the alternative movie subscription services are looking more attractive by the day.

MoviePass is opting some users into its new plan even after they cancel

MoviePass, the struggling theater subscription service, is rolling out a new plan on Wednesday, August 15th, that will limit users to three movies per month, in addition to existing restrictions on popular first-run films. It’s yet another cost-cutting measure in an attempt to combat severe revenue shortfalls to save the company. But ahead of this new plan, some fed-up users who decided to cancel their MoviePass subscriptions are receiving confusing emails that suggest the company has enrolled them in its new, modified plan without their consent.

“Please note: if you had previously requested cancellation prior to opting-in, your opt-in to the new plan will take priority and your account will not be cancelled,” reads an email sent from MoviePass yesterday to user Cristen Brinkerhoff, who shared the automated message with The Verge. Brinkerhoff, who’s been a MoviePass subscriber since November 2017, canceled her plan on July 31st after MoviePass revealed its plan to raise prices and limit access to popular new movies.

Six days after her initial cancellation, Brinkerhoff received a new email from MoviePass indicating she was somehow still subscribed and outlining the benefits of the company’s modified plan, which dropped the planned price increase in favor of the monthly three-movie limit. Yesterday, MoviePass sent her another email reading, “We received your confirmation for your new MoviePass plan,” mentioning the opt-in clause as the reason her cancellation never took effect. But Brinkerhoff says she was never given the option to opt in to the new plan.

Numerous other users have described similar situations to The Verge, saying they canceled their service between July 31st and mid-August, and the cancellation did not take effect — despite a clear confirmation from MoviePass.

“I had cancelled my subscription last week, and made zero changes to my account since then,” wrote user Abdullah Kareem, who’s been a subscriber for the past two months, in an email to The Verge. “So this email came because MoviePass made those changes to my account on my behalf and without consulting me. My billing date is on the 20th, so I haven’t been charged yet, but they just emailed me letting me know that they plan to bill me on the 20th, even though I explicitly cancelled my membership.”

One explanation is that MoviePass did not process anyone’s cancellations until the end of their billing periods. When its leadership decided to modify its plan and walk back its price increase, the company may have negated any cancellations as a way to retain its subscribers.

But it’s unclear why MoviePass is using language like “opt-in” without actually giving users a choice to continue using its service. It’s also unclear if this is more of a logistical mistake on the company’s end or a deliberate move to retain unwilling customers.

In a statement, MoviePass says the cancellation issues some users have experienced were caused by “bugs” that have since been fixed. The company also says that “no members were being blocked from canceling their accounts.” Here’s the full statement:

We are in the process of transitioning our members to the new $9.95 plan, which launches officially on August 15th. Those who have not already done so will continue to have the choice of either opting in or canceling their membership over the course of the coming weeks. Monthly subscriptions will automatically expire for members that do not respond by the end of their billing cycle.

On Monday, August 13th, we learned that some members encountered difficulty with the cancellation process. We have fixed the bugs that were causing the issue and we have confirmed that none of our members have been opted-in or converted to the new plan without their express permission. In addition, all cancellation requests are being correctly processed and no members were being blocked from canceling their accounts. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask that any impacted members contact customer support via the MoviePass app.

Complicating the situation is that some users are now reporting issues now when they try to re-cancel MoviePass once it became clear the company never processed their cancellation in the first place:

Given how frequently MoviePass has changed its product in the year since its acquisition by analytics firm Helios and Matheson and its subsequent steep price drop — and how awful and inconsistent its customer support has been over that period — it’s easy to see how this could be an automated error on the company’s part as it deals with mass cancelations. In the past, MoviePass customers have reported cancellation issues and hurdles to receiving any kind of technical help or answers to obvious questions. It’s been impossible to tell whether these issues were due to staffing issues, mechanical issues, or a growth-at-all-costs mindset.

The company has also played hardball with theater chains like AMC, using strategic public statements, misleading data, and its growing subscriber base to force businesses to the negotiating table. It’s also been in hot water over a location-tracking controversy, and it’s angered customers with nebulous, opaque “surge pricing” methods borrowed from Uber.

So there is always the possibility that MoviePass knows exactly what it’s doing, and it’s feigning just enough ignorance — or, in this case, shoddy product infrastructure — to keep people signed up for its service just a little longer, in the hopes that it’ll still find a way to monetize them and their data. The initial price drop was designed to build a huge customer base that could be leveraged into profits and used to force cooperation out of theater chains and other promotional partners. While MoviePass is having demonstrable trouble finding the money to support its user base, it can’t afford to lose them either.

Update 7/14, 5:30PM ET: Added statement from MoviePass.

MoviePass alternatives: three services to try after you cancel

MoviePass may not be dead — at least not yet — but the service is now a far cry from its original “all-you-can-watch” moviegoing pitch. Following a massive outage last week and an emergency loan to keep the service up and running, MoviePass announced on Monday that it would have to significantly curtail the benefits it provides its users, including the ability to see new first-run movies, to keep the service from going under.

The move has prompted some customers to cancel their subscriptions outright. If you’re of a similar mindset, or if you’re just curious about theatrical subscription services in general, you’re probably wondering whether there’s a competing product that stacks up. The answer is somewhere between “yes” and “no.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a true MoviePass competitor that will let you see a movie a day all month long for $10. But that’s primarily because MoviePass’ business model was so poorly thought-out that it essentially drove its owner to the edge of bankruptcy. Instead, the few existing MoviePass alternatives operate more like discount services: you essentially get discounted movie tickets in exchange for a monthly fee. There are also usually some strings attached or a few extra benefits tossed in, depending on the service.

Here’s the full breakdown:


Image: AMC

AMC Stubs A-List

AMC Theatres has been one of the most vocal critics of MoviePass, starting when the service dramatically lowered its price back in August 2017. As the biggest theater chain in the world, AMC arguably had the most to lose with MoviePass’ success. MoviePass was essentially a third-party entity inserting itself between AMC and its customers, setting prices and expectations that were incompatible with AMC’s own business.

That said, AMC’s stature in the industry also made it the theater chain that was the least susceptible to MoviePass’ attempts at hardball negotiating tactics. It took the chain quite a while — and quite a lot of gloating and shade thrown between the two companies — to offer up its own MoviePass-style subscription service, which was announced back in June. It’s an extension of its existing Stubs rewards program, and it’s actually the best service for the money and the closest thing to MoviePass you can get.

COST: $19.95 per month

WHAT YOU GET: Three movies per week, regardless of whether they’re IMAX, 3D, AMC Prime with Dolby Vision, or any other premium format. (This is actually a step up from MoviePass, which was limited to entry-level, 2D screenings.) You can reserve seats in advance, book multiple movies per day, and use the service at any of the more than 600 AMC theaters nationwide. Subscribers also receive a 10 percent discount on food and drinks and get access to the speedier premium members line at the concessions stand.

LIMITATIONS: Very little. Stubs A-List lets you see any film format, and there are no restrictions on what types of films you can see or how close to release day you can see them. There’s just the three-movie-per-week limitation, and that’s about it. The only other compromise you make with A-List is that AMC theaters typically don’t carry arthouse films, so you may not be able to see every movie you’d like with it.


Image: Sinemia

Sinemia

Founded in 2014, Sinemia is more of a traditional discount movie ticket service than AMC Stubs A-List, although it’s been riding the MoviePass hype wave this past year. The company essentially sells you anywhere between one to three tickets for a monthly fee.

The issue here is that you have to do some thinking ahead and make sure there’s going to be the right number of films released in any given month to justify the cost. There are also some restrictions on the pricier formats like 3D and IMAX if you don’t have the right plan. That said, it’s a decent deal that works well for people who plan on going to the movies at least once or twice every month. There’s also a service-wide summer discount in place at the moment, so it’s worth signing up soon at the lowered rate if you’re interested.

COST: $3.99 per month for one ticket; $7.99 per month for two tickets; $9.99 per month for two tickets plus IMAX and 3D; $13.99 for three tickets plus IMAX and 3D

WHAT YOU GET: Access to any movie at any time with no blackouts and no theater restrictions whatsoever. Sinemia basically loads the funds onto your own personal debit card with the cash necessary to purchase your ticket, and then you’re good to go. The classic plans don’t have access to IMAX or 3D movies, but the more expensive “elite” plans do. You can also purchase tickets in advance for theaters with seat selection.

LIMITATIONS: You’re basically just pre-buying cheaper movie tickets, rather than joining a more flexible service you can use multiple times a week. You also can’t see multiple movies on the same day, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to buy additional tickets within a given month. You’re stuck with just one-, two-, or three-ticket tiers.

Sinemia also appears to limit you to one 3D, IMAX, or other premium format screening per month, regardless of your plan. So if you purchase the Elite plan for $13.99 that comes with three tickets, only one of them can be used for a premium format screening. Additionally, using advanced ticketing requires you use a third-party service like Fandango, which charges a service fee unless you subscribe to AMC Stubs or Fandango VIP Plus.


Image: Cinemark

Cinemark Movie Club

Cinemark’s subscription service provides the least value for the money, in that it really only provides a single discounted movie ticket per month. But if you’re a frequent Cinemark customer and you like to see movies with friends, this could make sense since it does let you purchase additional tickets at a discount. What it has that no other service offers is a rollover credit program. Unlike A-List or MoviePass — both of which benefit from you treating the service like a gym membership you’ll likely never use — Cinemark actively lets you skip a month and use your credit later.

COST: $9 per month

WHAT YOU GET: One 2D movie ticket credit per month, which you can upgrade to a 3D / IMAX version by paying an additional fee. Credits roll over from month to month if you do not use them. You also get 20 percent off concessions, a perk you’re able to share with a friend by letting them scan your Cinemark ID. You can also use the membership to buy additional $8.99 tickets for you or your friends at any time. Lastly, you’re able to waive online fees for booking ahead through the company’s website or mobile app.

LIMITATIONS: No 3D or IMAX screenings without paying extra, and you can obviously only access Cinemark theaters. Only one ticket is included for the base cost, although subscribers do have the option to buy additional tickets at the same discounted price.