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Movies Businesses The Almighty Buck Entertainment

MoviePass Adds a Million Subscribers, Even if Theaters Aren't Sold on It (nytimes.com) 122

From a report: As streaming services like Netflix and Hulu surge in popularity, movie theaters have been trying to compete by rethinking the concession counter and installing seats that resemble beds. Yet attendance was flat at North American cinemas in 2016, and analysts are predicting a 4 percent decline in 2017, bringing ticket sales to a 22-year low. Perhaps something more radical is necessary. Mitch Lowe, a Netflix co-founder, certainly thought so when he took over a ticketing firm called MoviePass in June 2016. By August of this year, when MoviePass introduced a cut-rate, subscription-based plan -- go to the movies 365 times a year for $9.95 a month -- Mr. Lowe had been declared an enemy of the state. "Not welcome here," AMC Entertainment, the largest multiplex operator in North America, said in an indignant August news release that threatened legal action. It may be time to get on board: MoviePass said this month that it had signed up more than one million subscribers in just four months (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). It took Netflix more than three years to reach that level when it started selling low-priced subscriptions for DVD rentals in 1999. Spotify was relatively quick, at five months in 2011. It took Hulu 10 months to reach one million later that year. "We're actually shocked," Mr. Lowe said. "We seem to have hit a nerve in America."
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MoviePass Adds a Million Subscribers, Even if Theaters Aren't Sold on It

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  • If the theaters like AMC don't support it, how am I supposed to go to the movies?

    I would totally be in if this becomes as easy as Netflix though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's really insane is the theaters not realizing small income from tickets will likely translate to people spending more at concessions. So they're turning their noses up at more customers spending more money they actually get to keep versus the current shrinking ticket sales and concessions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      AMC may not be supportive of it, but I use mine at my local AMC theater all the time. You check in with the app, go to the counter then use it like any other MasterCard. Unless the theater specifically tells employees to look at people's cards and then tell them they won't accept a MoviePass branded Mastercard, I don't see how they can prevent it.

      It'll also never be AS easy as Netflix just because it requires a smartphone with a GPS signal and good data reception. I frequently have to go stand outside ou

      • AMC may not be supportive of it, but I use mine at my local AMC theater all the time. You check in with the app, go to the counter then use it like any other MasterCard. Unless the theater specifically tells employees to look at people's cards and then tell them they won't accept a MoviePass branded Mastercard, I don't see how they can prevent it.

        I would guess that refusing a specific legitimate MasterCard would violate their merchant agreement and tehy probably don't want to mess with masterCard. If they are so worried about MoviePass devaluing the movie experience then use the added attendance to show people that going to a movie can be worthwhile so tehy comeback when MoviePass goes bust. Use this as away to build some interest while you take MoviePass' money.

        If I were at AMC I'd tray to track the added revenue from MoviePass in terms of concessi

      • it requires a smartphone with a GPS signal and good data reception.

        Why in the world does it need to know your physical location?

        • Because the real money is when they start to sell all the data they collect on the open market. At least that's what they're selling the investors.

          Personally I think this is a failed endeavor. I can easily see them bleeding 10s of millions a month at current movie prices.

          • Yes, this was my suspicion. I did a little research, and it's clear that data mining is pretty much the entire purpose for MoviePass.

            Sounds like a terrific reason to avoid the "service" to me.

    • by Jaime2 ( 824950 )
      MoviePass issues you a debit card. You use the debit card to buy a ticket. They can't refuse the card without violating their agreement with MasterCard. In my area, not one theatre has an arrangement for direct electronic payment with MoviePass, so I always use it as a debit card.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by registrations_suck ( 1075251 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @03:16PM (#55823553)

      I don't get it either.

      1). The movie theater "experience" still sucks - mostly due to the audience. Loud sound systems and small screens don't help. If they don't fix that, even going to the movies for FREE isn't much of a value proposition as far as I am concerned.

      2). The content itself largely sucks. There's only maybe a maximum of 3 movies/year I want to see anyway. This year I saw three, and only TWO of those three I liked (++ to Planet of the Apes and Rouge One, -- to The Last Jedi). There is no way there is enough interesting content for me to go 365 times/year, or even once per month. Once again, if they don't fix that, even going to the movies for FREE isn't much of a value proposition as far as I am concerned.

      3). I don't even bother going to the movies anymore unless I can get reserved seats where I want to be (not well-supported by MoviePass) - AND I tend to buy my tickets (on Fandango) LONG ahead of time too. MoviePass can only be used to buy same-day tickets. So, fuck that.

      4). Apparently, can only be used to buy one ticket. So if you go with your wife, you both have to have MoviePass, and do two separate purchases...so you may or may not be able to get two reserved seats next to each other....in addition to having to do everything twice. So once again, fuck that.

      Final analysis: for me, this is a completely useless product...even if it were available for free.

      • by gnick ( 1211984 )

        This year I saw three, and only TWO of those three I liked (++ to Planet of the Apes and Rouge One, -- to The Last Jedi).

        Blade Runner 2049. You didn't see Blade Runner 2049. Go see Blade Runner 2049. If you liked the original, you'll like 2049. If you didn't like the original, watch it again until you do.

        • by sh00z ( 206503 )
          Blade Runner 2049 and Wonder Woman were both visual feasts, but they were both also guilty of committing audio assault, as their effects track battled to be louder than the score.
        • I thought the original Blade Runner sucked. I doubt I will watch the new one for free on Amazon Prime if/when it appears. I certainly wouldn't pay to go watch it in the theater.

        • If you didn't like the original, watch it again until you do.

          How many times does it take? I've seen it three or four, and still hate it.

          • by gnick ( 1211984 )

            I saw it when I was like 8 and it was the greatest thing in the world. I wasn't even focused on the 2 seconds of boob, it was just the best thing I'd seen up until that point. That stuck with me. I'm biased. Watching 'The Last Cut' still feels hollow to me because the first time I saw it there was a voice-over.

            • Maybe that's my problem. I was too old (about 14) when I first saw it...

              (Note to fans of the movie -- I'm in no way saying it's not a good movie. It's just not a movie I personally enjoy.)

      • ooh, #3 and #4 are deal killers for me as well...
        #3: I'm a single dad, I plan my outings days in advance at least, this includes buying the tix.
        #4 I have kids (in light of above statement Duh!), no way we're all risking sitting apart from each other.
        #4a, perhaps you can just use multiple cards in one transaction? Given the other limitations, I'm not sure this would work though.

      • by porges ( 58715 )

        You're entitled to your taste, but if the only movies you were interested in seeing -- for an entire year -- were 2 Star Wars movies and 1 Planet of the Apes movies, I would describe your position not so much as "The content itself largely sucks" but more as "I'm not interested in theatrical movies." You're a HUGE outlier.

        (with you on 3 and 4, though.)

        • You're entitled to your taste, but if the only movies you were interested in seeing -- for an entire year -- were 2 Star Wars movies and 1 Planet of the Apes movies, I would describe your position not so much as "The content itself largely sucks" but more as "I'm not interested in theatrical movies." You're a HUGE outlier.

          I will clarify my position. There were only 3 movies in 2017 that I was interested in seeing *enough to drag ass to the theater and put up with the shitty movie theater experience*, rather than just wait to see it at home on Amazon Prime or whatever. If the content were MORE COMPELLING (i.e. sucked less), I would be more inclined to go put up with the shitty movie theater experience. I watch plenty of movies at home. And yes, I know I'm a huge outlier. I get that (:

          You don't have to do it as two separate purchases, you just pay separately for now. Ring it up as one and have them split the purchase. They charge half to each Debit card and you sit together. It's not too complicated for them, groups often pay separately.

          According to MoviePass, each "user" ne

    • by Vairon ( 17314 )

      As I understand it, if the theater does not support it then there's a movie pass debit card that you can swipe at the box office. It activates to allow the purchase of 1 ticket after you tell the moviepass app that you plan to see that movie at that theater.

      IOW, the theaters don't have to support it in order for you to use it.

      • Something smells here.. im guessing the theater AMC will just charge the card full price. Moviepass is taking a full hit. that wont happen for very long im guessing. Sense they wont get reimbursed by AMC. I cant see Moviepass staying in business for very long. Subscribers are going to loose, MP will just go bankrupt paying full movie prices at chains who wont deal. So they had a substandard year "Theaters" they still made billions in profits lol
  • In theatres they make more money in pop corn soda candy sales than ticket sales.

    I am sure lots of theaters will sign up for this plan.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They lose nothing and actually make money.

      MoviePass actually feels like watching the movie for free (one movie a month is enough to cover the investment), which in turn means people are more likely to spend money on the concession stands.

    • but at say -$5-15 per person with this at the gate maybe not. At least with cash sales they give out 95%-99% of the gate at least they get to keep a bit to cover CC costs.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The theatre gets exactly the same $ from a MoviePass customer and any credit card customer. Full price. It's the MoviePass company that is eating the loss, by burning up investor money.

    • I think they don't want this to get traction and wide acceptance. Right now, MoviePass is low-friction, allows you to go to any(?) theater, and no one is the wiser. In a year, when 5 million people are using MoviePass and MP shows up at AMC and says, "You need to give us a discount, or we're going to block your chain." then AMC is in a bad position, because it will be the only chain not supported by MP. Chains don't want to be commoditized because they lose a lot of say over how they run and price their bus
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @02:42PM (#55823345)
    From the theaters perspective, it's just a debt card. They get the full ticket price. What people should be asking is how MovePass plans on even breaking even, much less making any money. It seems like they're doing the "I'll sell you this crummy quarter for that shiny dime" thing...
    • Not quite that bad, but movie pass once they get subscribers up can. Then negotaite with theaters to $7.99 a ticket and while one person may go 3 times a month on average over a year the average person will only go once every two months and the whole thing breaks even.

      Very small percentage of people stay on top of their monthly subscriptions well enough to get full value from them.

      Me I pay for Amazon prime, and I probably barely just break even on it over the course of a year. Bonus since I signed my fianc

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        They don't need to bargain with theaters. If they bargain with the studios, the studios will dictate terms to the theaters. Whether they bargain with theaters in the short term, I suspect the goal is to deal with the studios, who get most of the ticket revenue anyway.
      • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

        Me I pay for Amazon prime, and I probably barely just break even on it over the course of a year.

        It isn't easy to compare Prime with MoviePass.

        Prime includes benefits in shipping, on-demand video, music streaming, and more. It's hard to compare (even in retrospect) exactly how much is saved with prime, since people often won't pay separately for those things, and when they do the cost savings isn't always the same each time (e.g. expedited shipping).

        For something like MoviePass, it's much easier to ensure you go to the movies enough to get your money's worth. Just make sure it's greater than ($9.95 *

      • the average person will only go once every two months and the whole thing breaks even.

        If you're going to the movies that infrequently, then why would you sign up for MoviePass? It would cost you more than just paying like a normal person.

  • You're selling a gift card. With a lot of publicity. It's a good deal (if you believe the company can honor its plans). That's why. With Netflix or Hulu, you had to sell a new experience/good. That meant convincing people why they want it.

    I bet I could get over 1M customers real quickly with a $10/mo gets you all the fast food you can eat. It would literally be people who spend $10+ a month opting for a cheaper option.

  • ... with noisy, distracted fuckwits who didn't really value the experience. It'd also become 2 hour daycare.

    • ... with noisy, distracted fuckwits who didn't really value the experience. It'd also become 2 hour daycare.

      So... nothing will change, in other words.

  • Fix Hollywood.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @02:52PM (#55823423)

    Yet attendance was flat at North American cinemas in 2016, and analysts are predicting a 4 percent decline in 2017, bringing ticket sales to a 22-year low. Perhaps something more radical is necessary.

    How about good movies - that aren't reboot #13 of some long worn out franchise that you are squeezing for every last penny, licensing fee and take-down notice you can wring out of it?

    • Add to that the number of Hollywood stars who think their opinion is more important than mine, to the point that they choose to insult half the country who don't think like they do.

      I'm fine with Susan Sarandon being a left wing liberal. It's not my business that she has other opinions than mine. It's fine that I think she is factually incorrect on certain topics. As long as she says what she believes, and lets others do the same, I have no issues with her. Hell, we even voted for the same candidate* last ye

    • Actually making good, original movies would go a long way. Also, find a way to make physically being in the theater actually enjoyable. The "theater experience" often ruins perfectly good movies.

  • The problem is that going to the movie theater is a terrible experience (excepting for those small indie theaters -- they've mostly figured out how to make the experience a good one).

    Making a bad experience cheap doesn't actually make it better. If we're talking about the likes of Cinemark, AMC, etc., $10/mo is still overpriced.

  • Even at $9.95 a month, MoviePass is still too expensive. I look over movie trailers pretty frequently and it's more of a wasteland than Netflix Streaming or YouTube. There are maybe 3-4 movies in a year now I even care to see at all, much less drive somewhere to see. There are many more Netflix originals now that I am more interested in seeing than almost all movies produced.

    I feel really bad for the theaters as it's not their fault that Hollywood continues to suck harder and harder.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @03:23PM (#55823587)
    Saw Star Wars 8 in widescreen 3d opening weekend in a theatre with 20 people. If that can't put butts in the seats...

    On the other hand I dropped $100 for four people with tickets and popcorn, so maybe they only want us to visit once a year - just that empty seat showing could have netted them $2k.
    • Saw Star Wars 8 in widescreen 3d

      There's your problem. People have started to figure out that 3D sucks.

      • The theaters need to figure that out too. When I saw Star Wars 8, as you might guess there was only a handful of screens showing the movie in 2D, and a bunch showing the movie in 3D. The 2D screenings were packed. There was plenty of room in the 3D screenings. Which tells me the theaters need to reduce the number of 3D screenings and add more 2D screenings. However, given that the theater gets an extra $3 a ticket (or whatever the 3D surcharge is), I'm sure part of it is the theaters are hoping if the

    • Saw Star Wars 8 in widescreen 3d opening weekend in a theatre with 20 people. If that can't put butts in the seats...

      Hell, I saw it opening *night*, and there were fewer people than that in attendance.
  • by Orphis ( 1356561 ) on Thursday December 28, 2017 @03:42PM (#55823691)

    We have something similar in France. It's about 20 euros per month to get a card that let's you go to the cinema as many times as you want. There's also a 30 euros one for the card holder and a friend (works great for couples).

    Since they started doing that, they fill all the screenings, sell so much more popcorn that they never really considered removing them. It is worth it for them!

    I'm surprised by the low price though, how do they manage with less than $10 per month? From experience, going to the theater once always costed more!

    • The subtle difference, is that in France (and somewhat in other countries such as Switzerland) a substantial part of the movie theater are own by corporations such as Pathe / Guamont. which are also movie studios and movie distributor (i.e.: the whole thing is a lot more vertically integrated).

      Meaning it's much more easy for them to negociate the price of the movie ticket, because they are also the distributor of the movie.

  • They should try Installing seats that resemble flush toilets. This is a no brainer, don't know how this idea won't save movie theters from dying out.
  • How much does the theater get per admission? You can't just flash a card like Dr Who that says let me in. And for AMC you supposedly use it like a credit card which means AMC is charging these people full rate. So go once at ~$15 a ticket and they are under water.

    I can make up lots of good deal plans and likely get 1M customers, but that doesn't mean its business viable.

    • by ghoul ( 157158 )

      The plan of course is once 90% of the movie going public goes via Moviepass, moviepass negotiates with the movie theaters for a cut or they stop supporting that theater and the theater overnight loses 90% customers. its literally an offer the movie theaters wont be able to refuse. At that point once they have squeezed the theaters for all they can and the theaters are bleeding and in the red, they can pick up the theaters on the cheap and then start squeezing the studios. Once that is done they start increa

      • Ya, pretty certain they lose that battle in court just like AMC would lose if they refused mastercards. There's a reason the mafia isn't an actual company, what they do is illegal.

        However, upon further reading it actually appears that the plan they've been pretty forthright on is to sell customer data to everyone under the sun.

        • They might be able to sue under "anti-dumping" regulation if they start trying to negotiate hardball deals with theaters.

      • The plan of course is once 90% of the movie going public goes via Moviepass

        If that's the plan, it's a dubious one -- depending on who you consider "the movie-going public". In 2017, only about about 27% of people who see movies in the theaters go at least once a month. If you aren't going at least once per month, MoviePass doesn't really provide any value to you (and if you go less than once per month, it's providing negative value).

        • by ghoul ( 157158 )

          90% of butts in seat not the folks who see a movie once in a while. Moviepass is happy to sell cards to those folks as its a profit to Moviepass but the core target is the folks who buy popcorn at the movies. Once Moviepass owns their loyalty then they can use them as a bargaining chip with the theaters to share some of the popcorn money.

          • 90% of butts in seat not the folks who see a movie once in a while.

            The majority of butts-in-seats may very well be those who see a movie once per month or less. I couldn't find numbers about that specifically, but the numbers that are readily available seem to indicate this is a strong possibility.

  • theaters make a lot of money on the side by selling other overpriced stuff.
    go to theatre (maybe pay for parking), next to the ticket also buy something to eat/drink.
    i didn't look into moviepass, but i'm guessing those extra's are not included in the subscription.

    you might see something like this in the future:
    drink is $5, or buy a ticket from us for $7 including a drink!

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