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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The Joy and Despair of MoviePass

MoviePass is a smartphone App attached to a credit card that allows subscribers to gain entry to any movie, any day, once a day. It's a great convenience to the movie-goer, and at just $9.95 per month (that's right, per month!), it's also a great bargain for those who love going to the latest release and seeing movies in an actual movie theater. Sounds great, right? Some say yes, and some say no.

Right now, MoviePass appears to be one of the greatest things to come along for the movies since the concession stand. It reduces the price for the consumer, while increasing attendance for the theater, which increases the sales of concessions, and impacts the bottom line for studios. As a consumer, theater owner or studio what’s not to like? This is obviously a great way to get people back into theaters. Especially since MoviePass customers are far less concerned about a movie's Rotten Tomatoes score, and willing to ignore a bad rating for the sake of a lower price.

In fact, it goes to reason that subscribers see far more films than they ever did before subscribing, even going to see a movie midweek, and alone. In other words, it's driving people to see films they might otherwise skip. And don't forget the additional tickets purchased by consumers accompanying MoviePass subscribers to the cinema, as well as tickets bought by customers who were referred by MoviePass patrons. Whatever the situation, MoviePass is giving people a reason to go back to the movie theaters and they’re going in droves. Making Hollywood and exhibitors very happy by filling seats with eager audiences.

On the other hand, financial experts question the sustainability of a program that allows the consumer to pay less for a ticket, yet turns around and pays full price to the movie theater. Simultaneously, the studios are crying over the fallacy of lost review due to the increase of movie-going attendance at a reduced price (for which they are being compensated). While the newest members to the App who jumped on board at the latest price reduction worry about an inevitable return to the much higher monthly fee. So, the other question is, as a time bomb waiting to explode due to one (if not all) of these variables, what is there to like? And some theater chains have criticized the service for allegedly “cheapening” the movie-going experience. Industry executives also worry if the company folds, audiences will never want to pay $9 (the average price in the U.S.) per ticket again. MoviePass intends on marketing and revenue-share deals with studios and theaters, but no one has signed on to that deal yet.

Well, let's break it down. The current subscription cost (it has changed a few times) is $9.95 a month. At that price you are granted one film a day every day of the month. Which means, in February you will be paying anywhere from 33 and a half cents per movie to as much as $9.95, depending on your frequency of visits to the theater. And in any month with thirty-one days that cost is lowered to just 32 cents per visit. Of course, that’s assuming you go to the movies every day of the month. If you go less often, then the cost per visit goes up and your value goes down. But even if you go just once a month to see the latest release, in most parts of the country you’re still likely to be paying less than you would normally for a single ticket. So it seems like it’s a no-brain to sign up for the service.

On the other hand, some subscribers may think it's too good to be true, MoviePass has bet on customers easing up on consumption after the initial blush wears off. But I don’t see how they can count on that. MoviePass go to see movies they would otherwise never have paid full-price to see. And there are subscribers who would go to the cinema less often were it not for MoviePass. Their chief reason to sign up for the program in the first place is the desire to see more films and save money at the same time.

The bottom line: a monthly subscription service can dramatically change the movie-going habits for the better at a time when theater owners and studios need to do something about the decreasing numbers in attendance. And it's a service people adore. If you take away risk in the movie-going experience, people will see more films whether the economics of MoviePass are viable or not.

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