A seemingly rogue MoviePass website bearing the same styling of the now-defunct movie subscription service generated speculation earlier this week that the company may be making a comeback. Or, it was an extremely silly prank.
It appears now that the latter is most likely the case.
While the site bears the same style and appearance of the original MoviePass logo, its domain name, “moviepass.ventures,” was registered only last month and seemed to be separate from a handful of domains previously known to be associated with MoviePass before it went under, including “moviepass.com.” Verified Facebook and Twitter accounts associated with the company last posted in 2019.
On top of that, nobody attached to MoviePass seemed to be affiliated with the zombie site, which currently only displays a countdown to a March 22 event and an email contact that did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Neither of the MoviePass co-founders contacted by Gizmodo immediately responded, the National Association of Theatre Owners did not seem to know what the site was about, and Unrealistic Ideas, the production company that’s working on a docuseries about MoviePass, told Gizmodo in an email, “Nothing to do with us!”
Tipsters who contacted Gizmodo after initial coverage of the mysterious website shared multiple theories about who could be behind the site. One observation noted by a reader and verified by Gizmodo is that the website’s background image is titled “i.moviepass.ventures/hero-fandor.png,” leading this reader to speculate that the streaming service Fandor might be behind it. The Fandor website also currently displays a message that it’s working on a “reimagined Fandor experience you’ll love.”
Reached for comment, Fandor’s president Phil Hopkins responded that the company was “no longer affiliated with MoviePass, however we are excited about relaunching Fandor.” Cinedigm acquired Fandor earlier this year, and a revamp of the service was said at the time to be part of the company’s roadmap.
Several other tipsters floated theories about the “moviepass.ventures” website, but the most compelling evidence that the site was a hoax surfaced Thursday when a Twitter user with the handle @StonkGodCapital shared screenshots of what appeared to be a Discord exchange between users of the MoviePass subreddit — which describes itself as “dedicated to the discussion of all Movie Theatre Subscription Services” — plotting a fake “MoviePass 2.0 relaunch” to boost community membership and tied to April Fools’ Day.
The "leader" of the hoax seems to be /u/Merubokkusu who was the first person to post the new #Moviepass site on @reddit. He's a moderator of the subreddit and admin of the discord server. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/RWnPrDpeRe
— Conqueror (@StonkGodCapital) March 18, 2021
We’ve reached out to Redditor Merubokkusu and will update if we receive a response.
The same messages were captured in an unlisted YouTube video of the exchange shared with Gizmodo by someone who asked to be identified as “a concerned trader that did some actual due diligence on the situation.” Gizmodo viewed discussions about the plans to launch “moviepass.ventures” on the Discord channel that had several mentions of HMNY, or the stock symbol for MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics, including one comment that read, “HMNY to da moon.” A Reddit thread by a MoviePass subreddit moderator with a similar username as one of the Discord users behind the hoax conversation is full of chatter about HMNY as well.
It’s difficult to know whether commenters in these threads were hoping for a stock rally a la GameStop in earnest. Helios and Matheson Analytics filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year, allowing a bankruptcy court trustee to liquidate remaining assets. HMNY hasn’t been worth anything since 2019 but did see a brief uptick in activity — though its stock traded still well below $US1 ($1.30) — around the time that the site surfaced. Speaking with Gizmodo over Hangouts, StonkGodCapital speculated that much of the commentary around HMNY was a joke, as no actual company functionally exists.
In other words, all indications point to a frankly elaborate hoax by a community of Redditors who hoped to grow the population of their active Discord channel about cinema. Ironically, that Discord is no longer allowing invite sharing, and the link on the MoviePass subreddit to join the channel does not work. StonkGodCapital theorised while “hilariously counter-intuitive,” members of the group may have gotten scared after discourse turned to taking “HMNY to the moon.” He said that some of the messages that were part of the initial conversation in his screenshots had since been deleted.
So unless some other, unforeseen development unfurls in the time between now and that March 22 countdown on the “moviepass.ventures” website — which is probably entirely possible given how silly this has all become — we are not getting a resurrected MoviePass. And thank god for that.