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Why Helios and Matheson Analytics Stock Popped 23% Today

Rich Smith, The Motley Fool

What happened

Joy to the world! MoviePass is bringing back its $10-a-month, all-you-can-eat movie subscription plan -- the one that originally made MoviePass famous -- and that sent stock in its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics, shooting to the moon.

Of course, there have been a few changes since that original offer.

Soda and popcorn on empty movie theater seats

MoviePass brings back its all-you-can-eat-for-$10 movie subscription -- but will its customers come back? Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Once upon a time, MoviePass offered moviegoers a subscription costing $10 a month (or even less). It entitled a subscriber to see one movie per day, every day of the month, and made MoviePass so popular that parent company Helios and Matheson's stock quickly topped $5,100 a share (split-adjusted).

MoviePass's new plan, announced on its website  today, sounds a lot like that original plan. For a limited time, customers can pre-pay for 12 months of service at $9.95 a month (i.e., pay $119.40 up front). In exchange, they'll receive an "uncapped" subscription permitting them to "see it all."

MoviePass clarifies that "seeing it all" encompasses being able to see "any 2D movie available in the app ... at theaters everywhere." There do seem to be some caveats worth pointing out, however.

MoviePass does not specifically promise that it will pay for subscribers to see one movie a day, every day of the month. It doesn't promise not to change the terms of the deal, either -- as it did multiple times last year, crashing its business, and crashing Helios' $5,100 stock to a share price of just $0.01. In fact, MoviePass explicitly refers would-be customers to "section 2.5" of its "terms of use," which warns that actually, MoviePass "makes no guarantee on the availability" of any particular showtime, movie theater, or movie.

To the contrary, MoviePass reserves to itself "the right to limit the selection of movies and/or the times of available movies" -- apparently any time it wants to, and with no promise of a refund if it decides to unilaterally change the terms of the deal as it did so often last year. 

Now what

Investors jumped on the news as an excuse to bid up MoviePass stock 23.4% today, but can it hold on to those gains?

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," as the saying goes -- and MoviePass fooled investors a lot more than twice last year. I'll be very surprised if customers who felt abused by MoviePass last year will be eager to pony up more than $100, up front, to the same company that abused them before. Suffice it to say this doesn't bode well for MoviePass' business, or for Helios and Matheson's stock price.

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