A little over a year ago now we covered the very dumb saga of MoviePass, an upstart company that wanted to create a subscription service that offered unlimited cineplex attendance for a monthly fee. It’s a fantastic idea that was, at the time at least, being executed by some silly folks that ended up poisoning any relationship they might have with theater chains and studios before they even really got started. Following an embarrassingly high-profile cancellation of their great big beta test, they come up with a test arrangement involving Hollywood Movie Money –the vouchers you get from cereal boxes and DVDs– though not much was heard from that.

Well now the company is back with an announcement that a new national rollout of the service begins today with new regional pricing ($30 to $40 essentially, depending on where you live) an app and a debit card service. While MoviePass claims to have had conversations in the last year with theater chains and studios, the service still bypasses any partnership with them.

How does it work this time?

Essentially you sign up for the service, are granted access to one movie per day, and you simply use your MoviePass card or app to pay for a ticket as you regularly would. MoviePass pays the theater full price for the ticket, and you go about your business.

How the hell do they make money?

By depending on you not using it! Or at least they depend on a large percentage of users not using it, while the super users get balanced out. They claim their business model works well in the tests they’ve run, and I’m inclined to believe them, though I have to imagine it would be a high-turnover service where they auto-debit you for a while and then get cancelled frequently. This is pretty much what I assumed a year ago, and it remains the case now. Still, for frequent moviegoers, it’s definitely an attractive offer to essentially have your cinema trips subsidized by what amounts to movie insurance.

The service is still limited access, though they plan on a big Christmas season push for gift subscriptions, so it can’t be too long before they go open. There are some that believe the theater chains are still going to actively block this however they are able, and refusing to accept the MoviePass debit cards or whatever would be an easy way to go. I don’t know how hard that is to control at Kiosks, but this could be a weird cat and mouse game that develops over the next few months. To be fair, this time around MoviePass actually has some hard data backing their claims that this benefits theater chains, ostensibly as a marketing gimmick…

Spikes insists they are doing theaters a huge favor by encouraging more frequent movie-going. “In our beta trial we saw an increase in theater going by 64 percent and increases in concessions by 123 percent,” says Spikes. “We found that because they weren’t coming on-out-of pocket cash each visit, they tended to almost always purchase concessions. So we feel it’s a win-win for everyone.”

So basically MoviePass wants to get in the middle and suck up casual subscriber dough, increasing movie theaters’ bottom lines, and make everybody happy in the process. It’s very utopian of them, and it sounds like they have a point, just not one the cineplexes are going to buy or be willing to play ball with. There’s still a presumptuous air about the whole endeavor that reeks of The Turk telling Don Corleone what his business model should be, except instead of a ruthless gangster, The Turk is a little kid with a cap gun.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this for sure- it’s an intriguing service, and if any of you get in and give it a shot, do let us know how it works for you. You can keep tabs on the service and sign up for the waiting list via their blog.



Source | THR