I heard a saying once: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
By now you know about MoviePass. For just $10 a month, the company’s grand promise was that subscribers could go see a new movie in theaters every day. For $10! There were a few restrictions (no IMAX or 3D movies), but the basic premise was too good for many people to pass up on. For the price of a couple lattes (or one movie ticket), movie buffs could go see blockbusters and obscure indie films at a rate that used to completely shatter most of their bank accounts.
Here’s the problem (well, one of them): MoviePass still had to pay theaters full price for these tickets. So while customers paid $10 a month — possibly seeing literally every film that released — MoviePass had to pay up to $15 for each ticket.
I need to make one thing clear: I’m really bad at math. Maybe you can draw out a complicated formula on a glass dry-erase board with rhombuses and hypotenuses and the theory of relativity. I can’t, and I won’t understand it if you do. But even I know something just doesn’t add up here.
Recently MoviePass had to borrow 5 million in cash just to stay afloat, and users have complained rather loudly on Twitter that some big movies were “blocked” and the app regularly crashed. As of this writing, the company is scrambling to find creative ways to stay in business, but they seem to be getting hit with more bad news just about every day.
Things aren’t looking very promising for this company that promised so much.
I understand fresh startups like MoviePass have to take risks, and many companies are relying on similar subscription models knowing that not every customer will fully utilize their services.
But still: Whichever way you slice it, $10 can’t buy $100 worth of movies. If something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Tacos and Paychecks
I’m sure there are lots of business and entrepreneurship lessons to learn from MoviePass, but I think there are practical takeaways for all of us, too. Most notably, it’s helpful to remember our resources are finite.
You can’t cram 25 hours worth of activities in one day.
You can’t have 50 friends you spend time with every week.
You can’t (well, shouldn’t) spend 110 percent of your paycheck every month.
You can’t eat pizza and Taco Bell every day and expect to stay in shape (trust me).
I would gladly pay $10 a month to be able to do any of those things, but until Dr. Strange’s magic book of spells becomes a little more mainstream, it just won’t happen.
I think it’s good and wise and fun to try to increase your productivity and stretch your dollar. I love apps and articles that promise self-improvement, but no matter how hard I try, I always end up coming back to this reality:
24 hours are 24 hours, and 100 percent is 100 percent.
It’s easy to poke fun at MoviePass from a distance, but most of us are guilty of this same basic flaw: We all have limits of what is realistic for us to accomplish.
You know this. I know this. I’ve written about this before, and you’ve heard it before. As humans, we have to recharge and rest and have reasonable expectations on ourselves. Keeping a frantic and unrealistic schedule (or budget) will work for a little while, but eventually reality will catch up with you.
So where does that leave us? If you’re like me and know these finite truths but have trouble remembering them, I’m here for you.
In one of his letters in the New Testament, the apostle Peter wrote: “I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them” (2 Peter 1:12). Jude had a similar goal in his book: “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it” (Jude 5).
Our humanity has a lot of unfortunate traits. Along with our finite amount of time and energy, we are also very quick to forget things we know. We need people to remind us of basic truths. Most of us have to learn hard lessons more than once.
If you find yourself in a season where you’re always tired or frustrated that you can’t keep all your plates spinning, I’ve been where you are, and I live there now most days.
If you’re there with me, take a breather this week. Take a look at your calendar and your budget and see if you can find things you can stand to live without. As hard as it is, maybe it’s time to let a hobby or side project or even a volunteer opportunity finish its course. It’s very possible for each of us to reach a point where one more seemingly simple responsibility will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back — or maybe even ours.
You can’t do everything, and that’s OK.
Just like MoviePass is learning, no matter how magical or promising things look at the start, companies — and lives — crumble quickly when you over-promise and under-deliver. Be grateful that you can learn this lesson without losing millions of dollars and being screamed at by thousands of people online.
Spend some extra time with God this week. Say no to responsibilities you can’t realistically handle. Get some rest. Maybe even take a break to see a movie with MoviePass — while you still can.
I know how appealing it sounds to be able to have it all and do it all, but here’s what you need to remember: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.