Back at the beginning of the summer a new service called MoviePass announced that it was going to be launching, first in the San Francisco area, and then expanding outward. What they planned to be was a subscription service, ala Netflix, where you pay a monthly fee of $50 and then get unlimited access to as many movie theater tickets as you want. It was a solid idea that I think could have gained a lot of traction, except for one thing; the MoviePass people didn’t really tell any of the theater chains that they were planning this. Almost immediately after the announced launch, AMC sent out a press release saying that they were going to have no part in the service. This effectively put the kibosh on a poorly thought out plan. That was a long time ago in Internet time, however, and now MoviePass is back, with a new partner, and a new plan for launch.
This time MoviePass has partnered with a company called Hollywood Movie Money to try and work a different approach to unlimited theater tickets. Hollywood Movie Money is the company that makes those free movie vouchers that get packaged with home video purchases and whatnot. The plan is that MoviePass subscribers would choose a movie that they want to see and then print out Hollywood Movie Money vouchers to take to the theater. After the theater accepts the voucher, Hollywood Movie Money would then pay them for the full price of the ticket electronically. The way the services would make money is through selling online advertising and banking on the fact that people who use unlimited subscription services rarely use them enough to actually save money on the deal. The reason theaters will accept the MoviePass deal this time around is that they are already used to taking Hollywood Movie Money vouchers, so there shouldn’t be any theater owner gripes about complying with the deal. Or not. Take this quote from Camera Cinemas owner Jack Nyblom, ”We’re not going to let anybody outside set prices for us.”
I imagine a lot of other theater owners feel the same way, but whether or not they are going to be able to do something about it is up in the air. According to Ron Randolph, CEO of the company that runs Hollywood Movie Money, “Our relationships with each of the theaters is to accept Hollywood Movie Money regardless of where it comes from, so we have no obligation to advise (theaters). They only care that we pay them in real time, and pay them full price.” Oh snap, thems fightin’ words.
Seeing as MoviePass plans to launch, once again, without the consent of any of the theater chain owners, whether or not the theaters actually take the necessary steps toward shutting the service down will largely depend on the almighty dollar. At first the new way of doing things will be an annoyance for them, sure, but what if MoviePass is able to start getting people to go to the movies more often? Wouldn’t the suits in charge get used to a subscription service pretty quick after that? MoviePass founder Stacy Spikes thinks that this will be the case, and in a hopeful look toward the future said, “We’re in the promotional movie ticketing business. We’re inspired and hope that the theaters see this as a marketing tool that they can use themselves.” Perhaps, or perhaps they will get MoviePass shut down, even if it’s successful at bringing them new customers, and then launch subscription services of their own. Or maybe MoviePass’ model won’t even be profitable in the first place. I can’t see the future, what do you think is going to happen?