MoviePass is back, and I couldn’t be more excited to help destroy it again.

Business 101 probably cautions entrepreneurs against comparing their products to the Hindenburg disaster in pitch meetings, but there’s probably no better analogy for MoviePass, a startup that, in its 2018 summits, covered the cost of more than 50 million movie tickets while expecting little in return from subscribers. . The deal seemed so good that despite my evangelistic enthusiasm for it, many friends actively avoided signing up, thinking they would be complicit in the fraud.

To my friends’ credit, it’s become one of the great financial disasters in recent history that isn’t called Quibi. Corn MoviePass is making a comeback this summer, apparently, one way or another, with a similar app, a revamped business model, and new technology that its executives say will fix past issues and finally bring the app to life as planned. I am very skeptical and equally delighted.

For the uninitiated, MoviePass was a startup created in 2011 with the goal of making cinema affordable for audiences. In its early iterations, the app-based subscription service offered different tiers in different cities, the highest of which was $100 per month for unlimited access to movies and 3D screenings, which saw a massive resurgence after ” Avatar” in 2009.

You had to be about a football pitch from the cinema to book your tickets in the app. For those of us who played the system and frequented Union Square Regal in New York, it could be done during a subway stop under the theater. You then headed to the box office and swiped your membership card, which was already preloaded with the cost of that ticket.

But paying $20 for the lowest limited tier, let alone $100, was arguably too high a price for something so dubious. So, on a trial basis, MoviePass leadership reduced unlimited fees to just $10 per month, capping each user to one movie per day. The goal was to dramatically increase its subscriber base and then restructure its pricing model. Until all hell breaks loose.

MoviePass was, and I’m not exaggerating, the best thing that happened to me in 2018. For the cost of $9.95 in March, I saw $121.80 worth of movies, over 90% of which were subsidized by the fledgling startup. I was a power user, but seeing a single $14 movie at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn more than eclipsed the cost of my monthly subscription.

While writing for the Wall Street Journal, Mitch Lowe, then CEO of MoviePass, described to me the strength of the service as “bad movie insurance,” allowing moviegoers to venture beyond the choices of critics and box office bonanza towards the artistic, the obscure, the experimental. At its peak, MoviePass had more than 3 million subscribers, and Lowe boasted that the app sold 22% of tickets to the indie comedy “Gringo” and 55% of New York tickets to the Mister Rogers documentary won’t you be my neighbor? ”


“The film industry is built on taking your money before you see the product,” explains Craig Detweilerfilmmaker and author of “Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century” when we spoke in 2018. “It’s actually a high-risk undertaking for audiences. MoviePass changes that model and puts the power back in the hands of the viewer.”

which is great. However, even with my limited business acumen, I know that making money is an important part of keeping a business going. MoviePass crashed and burned spectacularly in 2019 after hemorrhaging nearly $150 million per quarter. The share price of parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc., which traded as high as $2,285 per share at the start of 2018, fell to just 5 cents per share in August, while Lowe, formerly Netflix executive, rushed through various business models. One idea was to capture subscriber data to help studios market directly to specific audiences, which he hoped could keep things afloat.

This explains the picture about the Hindenburg lighting up the scene Like new MoviePass CEO Stacy Spikes has announced the service will relaunch in summer 2022 at an event Thursday at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Spikes, wearing the archetypal black turtleneck that CEOs are expected to wear during major announcements, was actually one of the company’s original founders before his unceremonious ousting in 2018. He bought the company l last winter for about $14,000 and thinks that web3 technology, actually blockchain, which also powers cryptocurrency, NFTs, and many other things your parents are asking you about right now — can revive the service.

The flaming zeppelin was followed by the image of a Phoenix rising from its ashes to illustrate this point.

“MoviePass 2.0” will revert to a tiered system, this time with subscribers purchasing an amount of credits each month depending on the tier they choose, which can be redeemed for certain movies at certain times – new movies and screenings prime time will cost more credits than old rate and weekday matinees. Credits can be renewed month-to-month, and users can rack up additional credits by watching ad experiences, during which the app tracks your eyes to make sure you’re paying attention, stopping if you look away, before a brand hands out its bounty.

Subverting the old product placement model that sneakily embeds brands into a movie’s narrative, this model “essentially creates a transaction between you and the brand,” Spikes explained, while noting that it’s brought back great part of the original engineering team to create the new application. . You can also use credits to buy a friend’s ticket, which was not possible before in the first iteration of MoviePass. And you can transfer credits to another user when needed.

Despite its failures, the original subscription program reportedly sold more than 4% of the nation’s tickets in 2018 at more than 4,000 theaters. It also spurred companies like AMC to launch similar membership services that thrive today and helped boost the overall value of the movie theater market by 6% during its runaway success, Spikes said. Now the goal, or “Moonshot” as he calls it, is to sell at least 30% of movie tickets through the app by 2030.

As always, the internet hasn’t been very kind to the news, with Twitter user Pete Blackburn of Bally Sports jokes that he “liked the old version of MoviePass where I gave you $5 a month and you let me bankrupt the company”. But Franklin Leonard, who founded Hollywood’s Blacklist which champions the greatest unproduced screenplays, posted a note of support while reminding its subscribers that “it’s important to remember that the new MoviePass team is not the MoviePass team that brought the company down”. Oh humanity.

MoviePass has the potential for one of the great second acts in startup history, with Spikes delivering a similar narrative to how Steve Jobs returned to Apple at its lowest point. That probably explains the turtleneck. So, yes, of course, I will download the app the day it becomes available and test its limits again. Even if this one really turns out to be a fraud, I have benefited so much from the experience at this point that I will always come out on top.

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