A former MoviePass marketing director is suing 2 top execs and a consultant at the defunct startup, alleging 'unlawful gender discrimination and sexual harassment'

  • On Thursday, the former MoviePass marketing director Madison Geery filed a complaint in New York that alleges "unlawful gender discrimination and sexual harassment" by former MoviePass consultant Bob Ellis.
  • The complaint also alleges Ellis' conduct was "condoned and aided and abetted" by Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, the former CEOs of MoviePass and its parent company, respectively. 
  • According to the complaint, Farnsworth and Lowe retaliated against some of those who had spoken up for Geery, leading some staff to be "fired or quit on their own."
  • In December 2018, Business Insider published an investigation in which eight current or former MoviePass employees alleged Ellis had a reputation among some in the company for inappropriate behavior toward female employees.
  • MoviePass shut down in September 2019 after burning hundreds of millions of dollars in its quest to become the Netflix of movie-theater tickets, as detailed by Business Insider.
  • Ellis, Lowe, and Farnsworth did not respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The former MoviePass marketing director Madison Geery on Thursday filed a complaint in New York that alleges "unlawful gender discrimination and sexual harassment" by former MoviePass consultant Bob Ellis, aka Robert Ellis Silberstein.

Former MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, the former CEO of MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, are also named in the complaint, which alleges they "condoned and aided and abetted" Ellis' conduct.

Ellis, Lowe, and Farnsworth did not respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.

The movie-ticket-subscription startup shut down in September 2019 after burning hundreds of millions of dollars, as detailed by Business Insider in a four-month investigation.

Geery's complaint alleges that Ellis, the 74-year-old former marketing and publicity consultant for MoviePass, "sexually harassed multiple female staff members, including Geery" during a weekend at Coachella in April 2018.

"He repeatedly put his hands on them without their consent, violated their personal space, and/or lingered around them for no apparent reason, causing great discomfort," the complaint says.

The suit says Geery complained to human resources, but that Ellis' conduct continued.

Ellis was present at the premiere of "American Animals" in May 2018, a film that MoviePass was involved in. The complaint alleges he made "an open spectacle of sexually harassing more female employees at the event."

The complaint says when Geery attended the Greenwich International Film Festival in June 2018, Ellis grabbed her hand "in a very dominating and forceful way and made her cross the street with him holding hands."

"While they crossed the street with her hand in his, he told her that he wanted to 'show off' to her and brought her to the windows of a car showroom so that he could show her his brother in law's luxury car collection," the complaint says.

The complaint says at the premiere of "Gotti" — the John Gotti biopic starring John Travolta that MoviePass produced — in June 2018, Ellis came up to "Geery and her mother and made a big show of smiling and laughing and informing Ms. Geery that his 'horns were down.'"

After that event, the complaint says that Geery once more went to human resources and senior company leadership, and that shortly after, on a company all-hands meeting, Lowe said that Ellis had been let go. But even after that, as Business Insider reported in 2018, Ellis appeared at MoviePass-related events.

According to the complaint, Farnsworth and Lowe then retaliated against some of those who had spoken up for Geery, leading some staff to be "fired or quit on their own." The complaint says Geery resigned in October of 2018 after being "sidelined from critical marketing events and opportunities."

In December 2018, Business Insider published an investigation in which eight current or former MoviePass employees alleged Ellis had a reputation among some in the company for inappropriate behavior toward female employees. Several sources accused Ellis of touching female employees at events — placing a hand on the small of their backs, giving massages, and kissing cheeks — in a way some felt was inappropriate and said he occasionally had called or texted women outside working hours, causing some on the staff to feel uncomfortable.

Geery is seeking damages "not less than $3 million," the complaint says.

MoviePass, which became a sensation in August 2017 when it introduced a $10-a-month plan to see a movie at a theater every day, shut down in September 2019.

Helios and Matheson Analytics and MoviePass both filed for bankruptcy in January 2020.

MoviePass said in its bankruptcy filing that it was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Attorney General, and four California District Attorneys.

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