If there’s one thing that the popularity of MoviePass has illustrated, it’s that there are a lot of people who still love going to the movies but can’t always afford the rising costs. In fact, the subscription model — unlimited movies for $9.95 a month — was good for everyone, except MoviePass. People went to the movies more often, the studios got their money, and the theaters got their concessions.
Unfortunately, a lot of the big chains have not been willing to work with MoviePass to make that model sustainable, and the company is running out of money, quickly. From Deadline:
In an SEC filing today, MoviePass parent Helios & Matheson disclosed that it had only $15.5 million in available cash at the end of April, plus $27.9 million on deposit with merchants.
Even though the total funds available is $43.4 million, that’s not much more than the company’s monthly expenses of late, which are nearly $22 million.
The news has sent shares of Helios & Matheson plunging. In mid-day trading, they had fallen 29% to $1.50 a share.
The future of MoviePass does not look promising. Why is it, again, that theaters and studios have not been more supportive?
Exhibitors have been wary because, even though the ticket sales are booked as ticket revenue, the subscription concept is seen as potentially damaging to their already uncertain long-term value in the media food chain. Studios, too, fear that the theatrical experience could be degraded if flat-rate pricing turns it into more of a commodity than an event experience.
A commodity instead of an event experience? I don’t really know what that means, but I don’t use MoviePass to see ‘event films’ like Black Panther or Infinity War because you can’t buy tickets on MoviePass in advance and you run the risk of having those films sell out if you wait and buy them at the door. I use MoviePass to see movies like Tully and Unsane and The Death of Stalin, films that I might not be willing to risk $12 to see, but will happily go see as part of a $10 a month subscription service.
Ultimately, MoviePass will fail, but it probably will help change the pricing system, for better or worse. Those “event” movies that cost $150 million to make may eventually cost more to see — hikes will come either from studios or something like surge pricing — but perhaps, movies like Tully and Unsane may become more affordable in an effort to compete with bigger films.
I think that actually makes sense, too: If I could see two indie flicks for the price of one Marvel film, I might choose the former. After all, there are plenty of movie options, but there is only a limited pool of money from customers that can be applied to them. Not every movie is worth $12, but there are a lot more I’d be willing to pay $7 or $8 to see. It might also behoove exhibitors and studios to price their movies accordingly, and if a movie catches fire at $6 a ticket, theaters can raise the price, thus rewarding those who take the early risks.
The pricing system is outdated and continues to treat all movies the same. If MoviePass can raise some awareness of that, its rise and fall can at least be worth something.
Oh, and when those MoviePass subscriptions are canceled, make sure and buy your tickets at Atom!