One year ago, a relatively-unknown company announced that, for a monthly fee of $9.95, subscribers could see one movie a day without paying anything at the box office. That’s right – even though the average movie ticket in the U.S. is $9 – a $9.95 monthly subscription could get you into 31 movies.

Since last August, three million film-goers have subscribed to MoviePass, the company offering this seemingly too-good-to-be-true service.

Profitability aside, the service worked. Many subscribers did, in fact, see movies day after day. Blockbusters like the 8th Star Wars film were viewed repeatedly by fans and, as loyal subscribers became the company’s most potent salesmen, MoviePass’ subscription rate skyrocketed.

Things didn’t stay rosy forever, though.

The weekend before eventual $2 billion-earner Avengers: Infinity War hit theatres in late April, MoviePass conveniently announced that they would no longer allow repeat viewings of one movie.

This was the beginning of the end.

In the weeks following, MoviePass declared a slew of changes to their service, including blackouts of popular movies and surcharges to other films that, at times, were more expensive than buying a ticket without MoviePass (i.e. an $8 surcharge for a $5 movie).

In late July, MoviePass subscribers found the system unavailable and customer service unresponsive. The company, as expected, finally ran out of cash.

Although MoviePass was able to secure another loan to stay above water, the company’s future is in serious doubt. As of publication, the stock of MoviePass parent company Helios & Matheson Analytics is trading at a lowly $0.06.

The best way to learn, some say, is from failure. Alabama residents and lawmakers alike, therefore, should learn from the demise of MoviePass.

The lesson? The importance of fiscal responsibility.

Fiscal responsibility first demands a healthy sense of realism. MoviePass lacked realistic expectations and now needs another “another $1.2 billion,” according to CNN.

The truth is that our public policy discussions are full of MoviePass-like hopes: ideas that are well-intentioned but simply lack realistic expectations. A system of government-sponsored “basic income”, in which residents receive generous sums of money for living expenses, is one recent example of this type of idea.

Fiscal responsibility also requires honesty. Unlike MoviePass’ perhaps-knowingly deceptive relationship with its customers, policy-makers with accurate understandings of finance and revenue must be honest – off and on the campaign trail – about the financial viability of certain public policies. Lofty campaign promises made in full view of a different post-election reality do nothing but increase expectations and, when these expectations aren’t met, decrease trust in government.

The problem is that, like MoviePass, giveaway ideas like these become popular fast, and often for good reason. These proposals are hopeful, compassionate, and promoted by people who genuinely believe they will work. Often, however, the “how” gets ignored, those who understand the likelihood of failure stand silent, and the project collapses.

Instead of giving credence to unrealistic and unlikely proposals, Alabama residents and lawmakers should realistically and honestly engage public policy ideas that have the potential to succeed, not just for an official’s time in office, but in the long run. These ideas may not be as dramatic or fashionable as MoviePass, but they just might work.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.

This op-ed was originally published on Yellowhammer News, AL.com, Alabama Today, the News-Courier, and the Brewton Standard.


MORE ON Fiscal Policy

HUNTSVILLE TV: J. Pepper Bryars talks abortion, taxes on WAAY 31

Pepper Bryars, a senior fellow with the Alabama Policy Institute, recently appeared on the Guerilla Politics program on Huntsville WAAY 31. Bryars discussed support for the strong abortion bill in the Alabama Legislature and API’s desire to see a tax decrease to offset the impact of the gas tax increase passed earlier this year. Watch […]

The Gas Tax: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The increased gas tax became law this week amid much Goat Hill fanfare, reminding me of a Clint Eastwood line from an epic western: “I’ve never seen so many men wasted so badly.”   The Alabama Policy Institute has said for weeks that improved state infrastructure is important, but that conservative principles must guide the […]

HUNTSVILLE RADIO: Lawmakers should cut grocery taxes if they raise the gas tax

API senior fellow J. Pepper Bryars appeared on WVNN 92.5 in Huntsville over the weekend to discuss the gas tax increase in Alabama and how lawmakers should off-set the move with a tax decrease of equal value elsewhere. Bryars mentioned that cutting the grocery tax would be a popular move. “If they’re going to ask […]

MORE ON Good Governance

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson speak at 30th Anniversary Mobile Celebration

The Alabama Policy Institute hosted its 30th Anniversary Mobile Celebration on April 4th at the Hangar at the USS Alabama. Hundreds attended the event featuring several celebrated public servants including Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, and Former State Senator Phil Williams. In his candid remarks, Former Attorney General Sessions praised the […]

2018 Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire: Attorney General Steve Marshall Responses

Please see below for Attorney General Steve Marshall’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Friday, May 18 at 7:56 am View responses in PDF format here.  2018 Attorney General Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News ACTING PHILOSOPHY Interpreting the Law Question: Attorneys general are in the […]

2018 Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire: Dr. Will Boyd Responses

Please see below for Dr. Will Boyd’s responses to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Lieutenant Governor Candidate Questionnaire. Submitted Tuesday, May 15 at 4:57 pm View responses in PDF format here. 2018 Lieutenant Governor Questionnaire Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, […]

MORE ON The Forum

HUNTSVILLE RADIO: Rachel Bryars and WVNN’s Jeff Poor talk Common Core and its possible repeal

Alabama Policy Institute Senior Fellow Rachel Blackmon Bryars appeared on Huntsville’s Newstalk 770AM/92.5FM with Jeff Poor Wednesday to discuss a controversial bill that would repeal Common Core in Alabama. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) announced the bill in a Facebook and Twitter video late last week, taking some education stakeholders by surprise. Is a […]

HUNTSVILLE RADIO: J. Pepper Bryars explains how Alabama can defend religious freedom

API Senior Fellow J. Pepper Bryars recently discussed how Alabama’s local and state governments should defend our religious freedom on the Fred Holland Show, 105.3 FM WTKI in Huntsville. Bryars noted how the Freedom From Religion Foundation has implicitly or directly threatened to sue more than 40 Alabama school systems, local governments, and elected officials […]

MORE FROM Parker Snider

What is abortion, really?

Abortion is not simply a medical procedure; it has a much larger, far less palatable, agenda. Abortion sees the life of an infant, the memories they are bound to make if privileged with birth, and tells them, “No.”

API urges “Yes” vote on Amendment Two on evening news

Parker Snider, Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Institute, recently urged voters to vote “Yes” on Amendment Two on Alabama local news, including WBRC Birmingham, WSFA Montgomery, WAFF Huntsville, and WTVM Columbus. Watch the stories here and here or at the links below. Story by WBRC’s Alan Collins: https://www.wbrc.com/2018/10/16/amendment-rights-unborn-v-right-choose/ Story by Raycom Media’s […]

How to prepare for Russia’s October surprise

Russia is in the business of mind control. They’re not doing it through sinister headgear, satellite interference, or dream invasion like in Inception, though. Instead, Russia seeks to control the minds of Americans through something we all have and spend arguably too much time on: social media. This isn’t news to many of us. For years […]