Netflix for Movie Theaters MoviePass Relaunches With iPhone App, Payment Card

Netflix for movie theaters MoviePass announced the launch of its new service that aims to help boost movie theater attendance while giving consumers a way to see all the movies they want for one monthly subscription price. This is the New York City-based company’s third attempt at a launch, after two prior attempts last year (via a partnership with Hollywood Movie Money and at-home printed tickets) were scrapped.

The company was founded in 2010, and originally launched in 2011 with a smartphone voucher system. According to Variety, exhibitors weren’t fans of that model, and were concerned it would disrupt the typical per-ticket pricing at theaters. The company also announced a partnership with Hollywood Movie Money in August 2011, which gave them access to 36,000 theaters in their network, and let consumers pay for movies using Hollywood Movie Money vouchers.

CEO Stacy Spikes said today’s launch, which includes the release of a new iPhone app and payment card, is a response to users who wanted a mobile solution rather than hard-copy vouchers. The iPhone app lets people check in at a theater (they have to be within 100 yards of the theater to check in), and select a movie and showtime, which activates that movie on the new MoviePass reloadable debit card. Customers then use the MoviePass card like a credit card at the theatre (theaters have to accept major credit cards), and can then print their ticket as they normally would. Though it’s billed as unlimited, users can only see one movie per day, with premium movies (IMAX, 3D) not supported.

“It really frees them up from the earlier version we had, which was a print version,” Spikes said in an interview. “We heard from our customers that they wanted mobility, the ability to have more theaters, so we tried to deliver on both of those.”

The new solution will be rolled out to existing MoviePass members and the 75,000 people on the waitlist, and Spikes said while they haven’t solidified a date for a public launch, it will likely be before the holiday season. Unlike prior versions which required them to partner with companies like Hollywood Movie Money, the new platform means MoviePass doesn’t have to partner with distributors or exhibitors since purchases on the MoviePass card act as a regular ticket purchase.

MoviePass pays theaters full price for each ticket, and charges users between $29.99 and $39.99 for a monthly subscription, depending on their location (subscription plan prices are still being finalized). Spikes said they make money much like a gym would – though people can use the membership every day, most don’t, and they’re able to make money from users who aren’t as active.

“The math behind the scenes is everyone doesn’t go all the time,” he said. They are also planning to implement additional revenue streams, including retail, advertising, and data. “We look at the subscription service as establishing a relationship with the customer, and then from there we can offer a suite of things…if you want the DVD, or your want the soundtrack, it would all be at your fingertips related to the movie that you see.”

Despite the pushback from theaters and studios, the company said that during nine months of beta testing, users increased their movie theater attendance by as much as 64 percent, with concession sales increasing 123 percent. Spikes said they’re in early talks with studios, and are open to partnering with those in the industry.

“We found that it was more of people wanting to understand the system and the voices of anyone who was angry or upset were miniscule,” Spikes said. “The chains that we’ve had conversations with, they definitely feel that this is an opportunity to drive traffic, and that it’s win-win for everyone.”

The company has raised $4.7 million in capital from investors including True Ventures, AOL Ventures, William Morris Entertainment, Lambert Media, and Nala Pictures. As of today’s release, users can only sign up via the iPhone app, though Spikes said an Android app will be released soon.

Though it’s had a couple false starts and criticism from the industry, the company looks to have found a solution that will appease both users who want an easy way to redeem their tickets, and studios who don’t want this to contribute to declining ticket sales. As long as the company can implement their additional revenue streams to supplement subscription income they should be able to build a profitable service, assuming the majority of MoviePass users don’t actually go to the movies every day.




Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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