MoviePass, a rebooted version of the app that once burned through cash promising theatergoers all-you-can-watch features for a single fee, says its now going to expand nationwide again during the busy box office Memorial Day frame.
In its latest incarnation, the firm, run by Stacy Spikes, has subscription plans that range from $10 a month (for one to three movies) as well as $40 a month (for thirty movies a month). And the company claims that 4,000 locations are available for moviegoers to use the app at. “By opening up MoviePass to film lovers nationwide, we are expanding our support of the movie theater industry by helping drive traffic to all theaters during the critical summer season,” stated Spikes.
In January, the company said it raised funding from a number of financiers led by venture firm Animoca Brands, expanded to nine U.S. markets and inked partnerships with chains including B&B Theatres, Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas and Landmark Theatres.
The move marks the latest gambit for a brand whose parent company filed bankruptcy in 2020 and which has pivoted business models since it was first started. In 2011, Spikes was among founders launching MoviePass with a test run in San Francisco, billing the service as “Netflix for movie buyers” and promising all-you-can-watch theater tickets for $50 a month. Immediately, the largest circuit, AMC Theatres, tried to blunt any momentum and its then marketing chief Stephen Colanero said it “was news to us to see” its locations as participants in the test.
It was years later that MoviePass’ boom-and-bust story broke through to most of the public. That was when former Netflix co-founder Mitch Lowe joined in 2016 and then the Ted Farnsworth-run data firm Helios and Matheson acquired the service a year later, setting MoviePass on a cash burning course of a $9.95 per month price tag, ballooning subscribers up to an unsustainable 2 million at one point. (Lowe and Farnsworth are no longer with the company, and were sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission last year for allegedly violating federal securities laws, which they contested.)
Theater chains had maintained a cynical view of MoviePass’ pricing — in 2018 AMC CEO Adam Aron said, “We don’t see where those numbers add up” — and National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) chief John Fithian brushed aside the notion that the industry needed a self-labeled savior. The average cost of a ticket, as of 2022, was $10.53, per the National Association of Theatre Owners.
Unlike when MoviePass first launched, theater chains now tout their own monthly membership programs, including AMC’s Stubs A-List (which had 900,000 subscribers pre-COVID) and Cinemark’s Movie Club.
At its subscriber peak — when it grew from 150,000 users to 2 million in less than a year by steep discounting — the company touted its impact on box office grosses. Spikes has positioned the new MoviePass as a discovery platform to studios, helping to drive moviegoers to films other than the big blockbusters and as a sort of tech provider to theater chains, helping to fill seats at slow times. It’s unclear if circuits will welcome the help.