MoviePass returns this summer after being resurfaced and resuscitated by original co-founder Stacy Spikes. At a launch presentation on Thursday, Spikes took the stage in New York to hype the relaunch of his controversial movie ticket subscription service. There was a lot of fanfare and, somewhat bizarrely, references to Web3 technology. But one thing Spikes failed to mention onstage was MoviePass’ metaverse goals.
“Some of the players in the metaverse right now are a bit game-y, if I feel like you just want to watch the movie,” Spikes tells me. The edge† “You don’t need fake popcorn; you don’t need tomatoes; you don’t need any other stuff in it. And that’s what we’re looking at, and it’s something that we take seriously and think we’ll be there.”
At the launch event on Thursday, Spikes pitched a product that felt a little less like a potential bomb than the much-loved but disastrously dirt-cheap, unlimited viewing iteration of the service. And he’s ready to tap just about any avenue, including digital currency and the metaverse, to bring the memesub back to life. The problem is that it is unclear whether consumers – or even theaters — are MoviePass 2.0 ready. A cinema subscription that relies on VR and decentralized technologies gives the same energy as AMC to get into crypto. Fine, but Why†
“The great thing about going to the movies is that it’s uninterrupted. You can’t stop it, you have to pay attention, and if not, you’re going to waste your money,” Spikes says. “And what we like about that is that it’s event viewing. And I think event viewing can happen in the metaverse.
Spikes shared no details about the company’s metaverse ambitions. He mentioned concerts and live events as an area of interest – “We see ourselves as a live event company,” Spikes tells me – but it sounds like longer-term thinking for now.
Despite all the buzzwords, Spikes’ ultimate goal for MoviePass hasn’t changed. The service’s core function is still putting people on physical seats in movie theaters, and Spikes says the new MoviePass will give users more flexibility and a better experience, while helping theaters.
The way the old MoviePass worked was with a debit card-like system that allowed members to watch a certain number of movies each month for a fixed fee. There’s still a lot to be clarified about the new MoviePass – pricing has yet to be announced, for example, and Spikes declined to share a margin when I asked. But Spikes says the new subscription service will be tiered, and users will also be able to earn additional movie credits by watching ads through Spikes’ existing venture, PreShow.
This time around, Spikes says, members will also have more flexibility to do things like bring a friend — something that wasn’t an option with the last MoviePass. Based on the slides shared during this week’s presentation, the number of credits per film will vary based on factors such as peak hours and maybe even title popularity and location. Spikes insists that this is a crucial differentiator between this new MoviePass and the one that spurred 1,000 memes because of the poor way it was managed.
“It’s a bit of a concept shift — it’s less about the price and more about creating flexibility where people can go where they want, and even if you’re mid-month and you want to go more, you’ll be able to get more credits and move upstream, so it adds a lot of flexibility where the previous model was kind of one-size-fits-all,” says Spikes. “We think the one-size-fits-all stiffness is something that has to change.”
That flexibility could be a huge advantage for MoviePass 2.0 at a difficult time for the theater industry. Exhibitors are starting to reclaim their exclusivity windows, and recent releases like Spider-Man: No Way Home have signaled that audiences are increasingly comfortable returning to the auditoriums for movie premieres. But pandemic releases are still in flux, and while things are starting to get back to normal, streaming executives have been reluctant to fully return to pre-COVID release models.
Spikes’ launch event this week reads like a love letter to movie theaters. In fact, sometimes it seemed like he was speaking directly to them. (He very well could be – MoviePass hasn’t announced any exhibition partners yet, but Spikes tells The edge the company has “very sophisticated conversations that we’re very comfortable with”.) If MoviePass is to succeed, it needs theaters, and the landscape of the movie industry has changed dramatically in the years since the old MoviePass went up in flames.
For example, many theaters now have their own subscription services that reward power users with discounts. When I ask Spikes how MoviePass fits into a world where subscriptions like Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List exist, he says that smaller theaters have shown interest, while larger chains are taking a wait and see approach.
“I mean, it’s clear that those who don’t have a plan have a lot of interest in working with us. Those who do have a plan, I guess, are waiting to see what we’re going to do,” he says. “It’s an ongoing conversation, but certainly the bottom 50 percent who don’t have millions of dollars to bring out the technology we have are leaning in and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve seen how you impacted our business, when can we get involved? ?’”
Still, Spikes seems to believe that MoviePass could revolutionize the theater industry. During his presentation, Spikes said MoviePass 2.0’s “moonshot” goal is to double the annual revenue and presence of the film industry at large with a “30 by 30” initiative. Essentially, Spikes wants subscriptions (on any service, not just MoviePass) to represent 30 percent of all domestic ticket sales in the industry by 2030.
To achieve anything close to the fabricated success of the early MoviePass—the subscription service had millions of users at its peak, thanks to its economically unfeasible $10 price—the new MoviePass must regain consumer trust. Before Spikes bought back the company last year, Helios and Matheson Analytics, MoviePass’s previous parent company, did a massive job of infuriating customers and allegedly messing up the system on purpose.
When I ask Stacy about Helios and Matheson Analytics executives Ted Farnsworth and Mitch Lowe, who eventually fired Spikes from the company he co-founded, he says he thinks there are opportunities for companies whose original founders return to the company. to regain trust. But he also credits former MoviePass subscribers who “kept the spirit alive” with motivating him to restart the company.
“As for Mitch and Ted, I haven’t spoken to them since. When I was fired, I got an email. And we never had words,” he says. “You know, that’s fine. We’re excited about the opportunity to rebuild where we were and re-establish the brand to help the film industry.”