I knew that MoviePass existed, but I never gave it much mind because I think the subscription cost was like $30-$50 a month, which would allow a person to watch unlimited movies (one per day). I spend more than $30 a month at the theater, but it still didn’t really seem to be worth the investment.
Yesterday, they announced that they were lowering their subscription price to $10 a month.
TEN DOLLARS A MONTH.
Ten dollars a month for unlimited movies.
I probably average $60 a month in movie tickets (I do not have access to critic’s screening in Portland Maine), so I signed up immediately, even though I watch 2 movies a day at least twice a month. It’s still a helluva bargain.
But how the hell will this service make money? Apparently, the theaters aren’t losing anything — MoviePass subsidizes the ticket costs — but they are nevertheless wary. Yesterday, AMC said it was going to try and get out of the deal:
While AMC is not opposed to subscription programs generally, the one envisioned by MoviePass is not one AMC can embrace,” the theater chain said. “We are actively working now to determine whether it may be feasible to opt out and not participate in this shaky and unsustainable program…
“From what we can tell, by definition and absent some other form of other compensation, MoviePass will be losing money on every subscriber seeing two movies or more in a month.”
Why would AMC want to opt out? They’re still getting the full price for movie tickets, which means that presumably they will have more moviegoers, which means more concessions, which means more money for AMC, right?
They’re apparently afraid that this will eventually lead to disappointment for moviegoers, and I guess AMC believes that once the $10 price is gone, viewers will demand cheaper tickets, which will lead to less money for theater chains and for studios. And maybe it will. I have no idea.
The only thing I can figure is that MoviePass hopes to work like $10 memberships to Planet Fitness gyms. Planet Fitness makes a tidy profit on $10 memberships because they know that very few members actually go to the gym, and the $10 price point doesn’t compel them to go. Gym members that pay $10 a month are more likely to say f*ck it, and stay at home and eat a pizza, while gym members that pay $250 a month always go to the gym. (This is generally true for me; I’m a Planet Fitness member who goes religiously for six months, and then goes six months without going once).
But the gym sucks. Going to the movies is the opposite of sucks. So I signed up immediately. I don’t know if it’s going to work. The app wouldn’t even let me see if there were participating theaters in my area until I signed up, and now that I am, it appears that there are none in my area. I’ll wait for the card to arrive to make sure that’s the case (because the app says I need a MoviePass card to discover more available theaters in my area), but if it is in your area, there seems to be little downside to signing up even if you watch only one movie per month, especially in cities like New York where the price of one ticket is often more than $10.
In the meantime, MoviePass understands that they’re going to lose money, but somehow think this a gamble that will pay off in the long term:
“We know we have to prove the value we deliver and, at that point in time, where we’re delivering value to studios and theaters, we can work together with them in a constructive manner so that everybody makes more money.”
According to Marketwatch, the service hopes to make money by collecting personal information on viewing habits, etc., and sell it to advertisers, which is basically what Facebook and Google do, so I’m not too terribly bothered. MoviePass also believes that the $10 price point will boost attendance so much, and increase concession sales to the extent that movie theater chains will eventually want cut them in on their profits. That seems dicey.
In the meantime, if this works, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it for the 12 months that the subscription is guaranteed. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just cancel, which looks easy to do within the app.
(P.S., that MovieWatch article has a tweet from you, Brian Byrd.)