How MoviePass Went from ‘MovieCrash’ to Profitability

“There’s a wonderful thing that happened when MoviePass went away.”

It’s an odd thing for the founder of MoviePass to say, but Stacy Spikes told IndieWire as much. That’s because in the wake of the spectacular crash and burn of his subscription movie-ticketing company, numerous copycats and in-house loyalty programs quickly tried to re-create what Spikes built.

“You had a lot of people introduced to subscription models, [which] validated that subscription models work, and that consumers like them,” Spikes said.

After MoviePass shuttered in 2019 — then under the leadership of Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth after Spikes had been pushed out in 2017 — Spikes re-acquired the MoviePass brand in an auction and relaunched the company in 2022, hoping to build back his baby’s name after the former CEOs caused so much ill will.

Less than two years later, Spikes has achieved something the company never did before — especially not when the service cost just $10/month to see a movie a day — profitability. And in February, it surpassed 1 million movies seen since it relaunched about one earlier earlier.

Want in? Spikes is listening. He’s also talking.

“If they wanted to invest, I think now is a great time because in a sense we’re looked at as a start-up, but there’s been nearly $300 million worth of investment getting the product where it is,” Spikes said. “The product has had 13 years of development, we’re still the innovation leader in this space…all the kinks have been worked out.”

 

 

All those kinks are covered in a new HBO documentary featuring Spikes and titled “MoviePass, MovieCrash.”

The film chronicles a business idea that seemed too good to be true. As it turns out, it was. Though the company grew rapidly, it burned through millions. You wouldn’t know it from Lowe’s and Farnsworth’s behavior: the doc shows them partying it up at Coachella while MoviePass customer service reps dealt with angry customers. (One reportedly sent a box of feces — Spikes is not sure if it was human, canine, or other — to the office.)

Today, Lowe and Farnsworth are out, Spikes is back, and the office is (presumably) feces-free. MoviePass also looks different. Rather than pay a flat rate to get a set number of movies per day or per month, your monthly subscription fee gets you “credits,” a set amount of in-app currency that you then use to spend on the movies you want to see. The basic, $10/month plan gives you about two movies a month — it’s more in New York City and Los Angeles — while the top $30/month plan gets you about four movies a month. You can also buy credits a la carte. So there is still a deal to be had, but it ain’t what it used to be.

Fully intact is the flexibility of the program’s original promise. MoviePass credits allow subscribers to go to whichever theater they’d like, and that’s a key differentiator from other loyalty programs, such as AMC Stubs or the new Mubi Go. Many chains are willing to accept MoviePass even if they have their own program because it gets audiences in the door.

Spikes says he has proven (again) that he has “a viable business model.” The next step? New features to go with the movie theaters’…new feature films.

Audiences also want to be able to share credits with other friends if there’s a specific film they want to recommend, Spikes said, and he hopes to introduce that capability down the road. (It’s like Angel Studios’ Pay-It-Forward model for people you actually know.)

And just like any other subscription services these days, MoviePass is not above having ads. Spikes says MoviePass is close to adding branded content to MoviePass. If you watch enough ads, you can earn credits — maybe enough to see a movie for free. Spikes still has to figure out those details. But ideally, the ads wouldn’t be 30-second spots for crummy mobile games; in (proper) digital advertising, context is king. Spikes envisions luxury car ads if you’re working toward seeing a new “Fast & Furious” movie, for example. The tech is all built, he said, it’s just a matter of working out the (you guessed it) kinks.

SOURCE: Indie Wire

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Founder and owner of Performer.com/Performer Media LLC, a multimedia content creator for a variety of national plus local print & electronic media affiliates.