MoviePass, a rebooted version of the app that once burned through cash and promised theatergoers all-you-can-watch features for a single fee, says it will now expand nationwide again during busy box office Memorial Day.
In its latest incarnation, the company, run by Stacy Spikes, has subscriptions that range from $10 a month (for one to three movies) and $40 a month (for thirty movies a month). And the company claims there are 4,000 locations available for moviegoers to use the app. “By opening MoviePass to moviegoers across the country, we are expanding our support for the movie theater industry by driving traffic to all theaters during the critical summer season,” said Spikes.
In January, the company said it had raised funding from a number of financiers led by venture capital firm Animoca Brands, expanded into nine U.S. markets and formed partnerships with chains including B&B Theaters, Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas and Landmark Theaters.
The move marks the latest gamble for a brand whose parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2020 and has changed business models since its inception. In 2011, Spikes was one of the founders who launched 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 Theaters, tried to curb any momentum and then marketing chief Stephen Colanero said it was “news for us to see” the venues as participants in the test.
It was years later that the MoviePass boom-and-bust story caught on with most of the public. That was when former Netflix co-founder Mitch Lowe joined in 2016 and then Ted Farnsworth-run data company Helios and Matheson acquired the service a year later, bringing MoviePass to a $9.95 a month cash-burning course. which increased the number of subscribers to an unsustainable 2 million at one point. (Lowe and Farnsworth are no longer with the company and were sued last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly violating federal securities laws, which they disputed.)
Theater chains took 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 Theater Owners (NATO) chief John Fithian dismissed the idea that the industry needed a self-proclaimed savior. The average cost of a ticket was $10.53 as of 2022, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.
Unlike when MoviePass first launched, theater chains are now touting their own monthly membership programs, including AMC’s Stubs A-List (which had 900,000 subscribers before COVID) and Cinemark’s Movie Club.
At the peak of its subscriber count — when it grew from 150,000 users to 2 million in less than a year through deep discounts — the company touted its impact on box office revenue. Spikes has positioned the new MoviePass as a discovery platform for studios, driving moviegoers to movies other than the big blockbusters and as a sort of technology provider for theater chains, filling seats at quiet times. It is unclear whether circuits will welcome the help.