MoviePass, dead for two years, is set to return this summer with a different business model and other changes that co-founder Stacy Spikes says will help ensure MoviePass 2.0 doesn’t suffer the same fate as the first iteration and could help breathe life into a struggling exhibition sector. In a Thursday presentation, Spikes offered the first peek of what the movie ticket subscription service will look like when it relaunches this summer.
First things first: Spikes offered no specifics on pricing, aside from the fact that the new service will operate on a tiered model. Definitely don’t expect to get an all-you-can-watch plan for $9.99, which Spikes has long been critical of. The new MoviePass will allow users to bring a friend, roll over unused credits, transact with virtual currency, and trade unused credits.
“The tiered plans are going to be able to allow you to come in at a place that you feel more comfortable with. What we saw was $10 was a really good starting point for a lot of people who said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to use it or not,'” Spikes said. “The tiered system is going to let different people play at different levels.”
He suggested that the company could function somewhat like a co-op, where members will have the opportunity to buy shares of the enterprise.
Spikes offered a plethora of data points that suggested just how large an impact the original MoviePass had on exhibition, point to those numbers as proof that the next iteration of the company could help lift theaters out of their pandemic slump.
His goal is to capture 30 percent of the moviegoing audience as MoviePass members by 2030, which he said could double theater attendance. Even at its height, Spikes said MoviePass made up just four percent of the theater market, though it had a particularly large impact on specialty and awards films, as members viewed the service as a chance to discover titles other than tentpoles. MoviePass members increased their moviegoing between 100 to 144 percent, he said.
Spikes, co-founder of the original MoviePass, took control of the company in November as part of the bankruptcy proceeding of the service’s now-former parent company. The former Motown and Miramax executive founded MoviePass in 2011 with Hamet Watt. In its earliest years, it experimented with plans that ranged from $15 to $75. The infamously low $9.99 price point came after analytics firm Helios and Matheson acquired the company.
That one-film-per-day plan led to explosive growth to the tune of hundreds of thousands of new subscribers a month, but also set off a downward spiral for the company that left it deep in debt and faced with service disruptions, changes to its business model, lawsuits, and ultimately, a sunsetting of the service and bankruptcy for Helios and Matheson.
Spikes has long been vocal about his unease with that price point. He told Insider in 2019 that he was fired from MoviePass shortly after the acquisition amid a divide in thinking between him and the company’s new leaders.
At its height in June 2018, six months after Spikes was fired, MoviePass had a reported 3 million subscribers, a level of success that inspired theater chains to launch copycat services just as MoviePass plunged into chaos. It had just 225,000 subscribers shortly before it shut down in fall 2019.
Amid the pandemic recovery, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have all resumed their ticket-subscription programs. AMC leaders have said it’s an important part of their business that they expect will continue to grow. Pre-pandemic, its A-List service had 900,000 members, as of the company’s November earnings call it had recovered about 2/3 of that amount.
“If it benefits one theater chain, it’s really a loyalty program,” Spikes said.” But if it benefits the entire market, then what you actually have is a marketplace. Our goal is to create a marketplace where all theaters, all movies, all titles, all parts of the market benefit.”
He said the new MoviePass will give theaters, studios, and advertisers more direct access to their customers. MGM, for example, could be clued in about a diehard James Bond fan, and offer something special to them when the next film comes out. Theaters will be able to see when a previously loyal viewer starts favoring a competitor, and offer them something to come back. And advertisers will be able to serve up video ads to MoviePass customers, with facial tracking technology that ensures their eyes are glued to the screen during the duration of the spot, in exchange for credits.
Toward the end of the original MoviePass’ life, theaters had begun to integrate into the app to allow for ticket purchases remotely. Spikes said that theaters who took advantage of that saw 30 to 40 percent higher traffic once they were integrated.