MoviePass is coming back. The company has confirmed in a report from Insider that the service will once again go live, this time with a new business model. A waitlist for new sign-ups will open Thursday, August 25th at moviepass.com and close on Labor Day (September 5th). It’ll be free to register with your email and ZIP code, and MoviePass says the initial group of beta testers will have three pricing tiers to pick from, depending on their region: $10 per month, $20 per month, or $30 per month.
A little background
At this point, I can only imagine those who live under rocks haven’t heard of MoviePass. It was the hottest trend in subscription services between 2017 and 2019 when the company, while struggling to stay afloat, was bought by Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY). In order to grow its popularity, HMNY introduced a $10 per month unlimited movie plan that got you a specific amount of tickets for any movie you wanted, any day of the week for less than the cost of an IMAX ticket every month. It was such a good deal that MoviePass went from 20,000 subscribes to 100,000 in two days. It also spelt trouble, as MoviePass and its parent company couldn’t generate any profit whatsoever. HMNY wound up shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into the burning money pit that was MoviePass, and it eventually went out of business.
This happened after MoviePass had been on the market since 2011, albeit in a much less appealing state. It used to charge far more for subscriptions than $10 a month (at times, prices were as high as $50 per month for some plans, which was still a good deal in the grand scheme of things). Those high prices ultimately stifled user growth, and MoviePass could never successfully formulate a plan that guaranteed cashflow, subscriber growth, and much-needed stability.
How MoviePass will work going forward
For its next incarnation, cofounder Stacy Spikes says the service will focus on credits that can be cashed in for movie tickets, rather than MoviePass outright giving you tickets to whatever film you wanna go see for the money you pay each month. Once you’re out of credits, you can’t see any more movies until next month, and any extra credits will roll over to the next billing period. You’ll have the opportunity to earn more credits by watching advertisements provided by Spikes’ PreShow advertising company, which uses facial recognition technology to record user retention. In addition, you’ll be able to buy movie tickets either in the mobile app or with a physical MoviePass Mastercard.
Spikes purchased MoviePass back from HMNY after it went bankrupt, promising to reintroduce the service with a more sustainable business model. While it’s a much different company than it was in its heyday, Spikes says it’ll still be able to compete with all of the subscription services theaters have begun introducing in response to his company’s previous success.
The news comes at a time where movie theaters around the world are struggling to make bank after the pandemic hindered virtually their entire business model. Just this weekend, Regal Cinemas’ parent company Cineworld confirmed that it’s been considering “possible voluntary Chapter 11 filing” in the United States due to the current state of the industry. Studios and theaters alike are counting heavily on popular franchises to continue encouraging people to watch films at the theater rather than at home.
A sliver of MoviePass’ past success could certainly help theaters thrive once more, although it’s unclear whether Spikes’ new plan will pay off in that way. In the meantime, I’ll be registering for the beta, and I’ll do my best to get in if they don’t let me in off the bat.