MoviePass making comeback in the US with added eyeball tracking for adverts

  • 11/02/2022
An illustration of an eyeball in a Matrix-like world
The functionality has been met with derision on social media Photo credit: Getty Images

A defunct movie ticketing platform is making a comeback - complete with facial detection technology to track people's eyes while they watch adverts.

MoviePass shut down in 2019 after offering a US$10 (NZ$15) per month subscription plan that offered unlimited cinema tickets and quickly became unsustainable.

CEO Stacy Spikes says the reimagined MoviePass will no longer offer an unlimited option, but instead will be tiered and based on credits. 

One way for customers to earn extra credits, however, sounds a little creepy - having your eyeballs tracked.

The feature will show customers adverts on their phones, but unlike other online services that show adverts, it will actually ensure people are watching the ads by detecting when your eyeballs aren't looking at the screen, causing the video to pause.

"Your phone, your device uses your own facial detection," Spikes said.

"It doesn't go to the cloud, nobody goes through anything other than you and your information in yours. And you opt in to do it on your own."

According to a CNET report, an earlier version of the new MoviePass didn't have facial detection, so most customers started the video and then put the phone down.

Spikes said the feature was an extension of product placement, which is already a big feature in movies.

"I love product placement in movies," he said.

"I love the cars, I love the watches, I love the clothes. I'm that person that sometimes has a notepad and I'm writing down, is that Hugo Boss?"

The eye-tracking feature has been met with derision on social media.

One user wondered whether anyone at MoviePass had met anyone with an anxiety disorder before.

"My eyeballs barely remain on the screen for things I want to watch," they said.

Tech writer Casey Newton poked fun with a sarcastic dig at the company.

"People loved MoviePass but hated that it wasn’t continuously scanning their eyeballs to make sure they were watching pre-roll ads in exchange for tiny discounts on tickets. Props to the team for figuring this out," he wrote.

Others compared it to an episode of dystopian television show Black Mirror in which Daniel Kaluuya starred.

'Fifteen Million Cs' featured people using exercise bikes in order to earn a currency called 'merits' to be able to buy things.