Mar 7, 2022 - Economy & Business

MoviePass plots summer reboot

MoviePass CEO over illustrated background
Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photo: J. Countess/Getty Images

Axios Pro Media Deals launched today. Enjoy the inaugural 1 big thing.

MoviePass, one of media's biggest flameouts, is plotting a reboot this summer led by original co-founder Stacy Spikes, who tells Axios that MoviePass can lead theaters' rejuvenation.

Why it matters: The theater industry is still reeling from the pandemic. COVID hammered studios' and theaters' bottom lines, and it also changed movie distribution, as many consumers adapted to streaming new releases at home.

Details: Spikes unveiled his vision for MoviePass 2.0 during a presentation last month, which he says was well received.

  • "Immediately afterwards, I think we had a desired effect that people started reaching out," he says.
  • The new MoviePass will be a Web3 and token-based system, where customers earn "credits" that can be applied to movie tickets at participating theaters.
  • There will be three pricing tiers, and users can "earn" more credits by watching ads embedded with eyeball-tracking software from Spikes' PreShow technology.
  • For now, the credit card will still exist.

By the numbers: Spikes believes MoviePass can account for 30% of U.S. ticket sales by 2030.

  • During its peak in 2018, MoviePass was responsible for 4% of the overall market share.
  • AMC, Regal and Cinemark — the three largest chains in the U.S. — have each launched their own subscription-based offerings in the wake of MoviePass 1.0's downfall.
  • "Everybody looked at it as subscription worked to help the industry. There's a lot of exhibitors who just don't have the capital to really build out that kind of system," Spikes says.

What's next: Spikes is actively courting investors and theaters.

  • Spikes hopes to have the first wave of theater partners on board within the next 30-45 days, though it doesn't seem as though big chains like AMC and Regal will be part of that.
  • Users will be able to buy equity, though how much is still being worked out. "You're not looking for it to be fully customer-owned," he said.
  • Instead, MoviePass is modeling itself after REI and Patagonia, which are "using their audience as a buying group."

Flashback: Spikes co-founded MoviePass in 2011, but it wasn't until 2017 that the company took off when data firm Helios and Matheson bought a majority stake and immediately dropped the monthly fee to $10.

  • Spikes wanted the price reduction to be a limited offer, understanding $10 was cheaper than a single ticket in most markets. He was eventually pushed out of his own company.
  • The company burned through cash and couldn't deliver on what it promised. It stopped working for users (sometimes intentionally) and eventually shut down in 2019.
  • Spikes bought the company out of bankruptcy last November.

The bottom line: "Our industry needs to be focused more on frequency versus cost right now. If that seat is empty and there's no one there and that person is choosing to stay at home and watch Netflix, then we lose," he says.

Tim Baysinger co-authors Axios Pro Media Deals. Sign up for your free trial today.

Go deeper