The Future of Cinema

MoviePass could change the way people watch movies everywhere

By Jimmy Fortuna-Peak

Moviegoers around the country were shocked and amazed when MoviePass, an app that allows its users to see one movie a day for a monthly fee, dropped its prices to only $9.95 a month.

MoviePass was created in 2011 and operated strictly in the San Francisco area for a little more than a year. Rather than an app, the service then worked as a voucher system where people could print out vouchers on their home computer and trade them in for actual tickets at the theater. The service now operates in 91 percent of theaters all across America, and is run by Netflix co-founder Mitch Lowe. Since its inception, MoviePass has tried many different pricing strategies, such as $50 a month for large cities like New York and Los Angeles, and $30.00 a month for small, suburban cities. On August 15, 2017, MoviePass dropped its monthly fee to $9.95 for everyone.

People who want to purchase MoviePass can either sign up on the app or on its website. Once signed up, you will need to wait around 5-7 business days before you receive your MoviePass credit card. Once the card is activated, the service is ready to use. From here you will be able to see the nearest theaters that offer the service and their showtimes. After arriving at the theater, open the app, and select a movie and showtime to go see. After confirming, your card will be activated for 30 minutes. Use the card to buy the ticket at the box office, and enjoy the show.

While amazing, MoviePass does have certain limitations. You are not allowed to see the same movie more than once. This is quite unfortunate for those who enjoy repeat viewings of shows. Also, you can only buy one ticket per show through MoviePass. This can create a challenge for groups trying to go see the same movie together, and prevents friends and family from receiving the same discount. The deal only applies to 2D films. If you desire to see a movie in IMAX, or in 3D, you will need to pay an additional fee in order to view the film in that platform. Finally, tickets need to be purchased onsite and require its users to be physically at the theater before reserving a ticket. However, some theaters, such as Goodrich Quality 16 in Ann Arbor, use e-ticket technology within the app. This allows people to reserve tickets hours in advance, and from any location. You will receive a confirmation code from the app that can be turned into the box office for a ticket.

With a price point of $9.95 a month, MoviePass certainly isn’t making any money from their subscribers. With the average price of a movie ticket reaching an all-time high of $8.84 according to the Hollywood  Reporter, MoviePass will be losing money if people only see just two films in one month. While this business model does not seem promising, there is another goal in mind to make profits.

MoviePass has sold a large amount of its stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. This is a big data company that helps businesses make decisions based on social phenomena. This new, lowered price point is meant to attract as many subscribers as possible. With a large enough user base, MoviePass would be able to collect data on film preferences from around the country. Selling this data to large movie studios could potentially make MoviePass millions, and make up for the losses on their subscriptions.

Official movie pass credit card used to purchase tickets at the box office

The AMC Theater chain has been very vocal on why MoviePass could actually damage the industry. AMC has theaters all across Michigan, in locations such as Livonia and Southfield, as well as the rest of the country. AMC believes that MoviePass will go bankrupt before being able to attain a profit and either be forced to raise its prices or close the business altogether. As consumers become used to the cheap ticket prices, they will not want to go back to the standard pay per ticket system. A $10 ticket for one movie will seem like a ripoff. People may even stop going to the movies all together. The fear of this has caused them to retaliate. “While AMC is not opposed to subscription programs generally,” an AMC statement 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.”

With this in mind, many theaters still believe that MoviePass could help improve the industry. Last summer’s season had the worst box office results in over 10 years. MoviePass could potentially get people back into theaters. “I guess it could work; it’s a really cool idea,” Quality 16 Senior Shift Manager Nicole Alton said. “If they get enough user rate I think it could last.”

Mitch Lowe, MoviePass CEO, was able to revolutionize how the world watches Television with Netflix. Now, he is trying to do the same for film. Television and music have embraced distribution by subscription, and it is only a matter of time before film jumps onto the bandwagon. “People really do want to go more often,” Lowe said to, “they just don’t like the transaction.” If MoviePass doesn’t fail at its long term plan, there could be a massive change in how we view film.