MoviePass: The Savior or Downfall of the Movie Theater?

Netflix has changed how we watch television.  It has done so very, very quickly.  The impact of Netflix has been pervasive and destructive to traditional television networks, and is very quickly changing the model we have known for decades.  The All-You-Can-Eat idea is nothing new, but it has caught fire with Netflix and is about ready to spread to other industries.  So what happens when one of the Netflix founders decides to launch a subscription AYCE service for traditional movie theaters? The industry quakes and consumers respond in droves.

Mitch Lowe, one of the co-founders of Netflix, is the CEO of the controversial MoviePass service, and he promises to bring the same moxie and drive to the new service that he did with Netflix.  For $9.95 a month, consumers can see one movie a day at almost any theater anywhere, and theaters are paid full price for the ticket.  Only one consumer per account though, and only one account per phone (at least for now), and MoviePass doesn’t cover large screen formats like IMAX or Dolby Cinema.

The service isn’t new; its been around since 2011.  However, it was just recently that MoviePass dropped its price to $9.95 a month, and the moment this was announced, fans responded with furious pacing.  Enough of a pace to cause MoviePass’s service to take hits on their app, and causing a month-long delay in sending out new membership cards.  Membership cards? Huh? What is that and why do you need it?

MoviePass is slightly confusing to try and understand, but luckily I will explain it and tell you how it works, and then you can just enjoy it.  Once you download the MoviePass app and go through their setup process, they send you out via US Mail a MoviePass card, that is in actuality, a debit MasterCard.  The service works a very specific way, and the app isn’t quite up to 2017 standards yet on exactly what you need to do.

Once you receive your MoviePass card, you can go to the app, pick a theater from a list nearby, and choose the movie you want to see.  You MUST be within 100 yards of the theater you choose, and when you are, check in to the movie you want to see on the app.  The app then authorizes your MoviePass debit card to work, and you simply walk up to the ticket counter and purchase your movie ticket like normal except you pay with your MoviePass debit card.  You can also use a ticket kiosk (which is what I’ve been doing as to avoid the looks you might expect to get using this card until the service becomes more prevalent).  That’s it.  You get a normal ticket, and you enjoy your movie.  You can’t buy advance tickets, so its same day only.

But at $9.95, how in the f*ck can this company make money considering that seeing just one movie a month costs this company more than the $9.95 membership fee? Well, this is the slightly confusing grey area.  MoviePass reimburses the theater in full for your standard ticket, so if your ticket is $14.95, the theater is paid $14.95.  The idea is that some people won’t see a movie every day, as a matter of fact, they may not even see one a month.  Some people, like myself, will utilize this highly.  But they are correct at MoviePass, some folks will rarely use it.  This seems like quite a gamble to me, but Mitch Lowe knows business, and he specifically knows subscription AYCE eat models probably better than anyone.

AMC Theaters, who does accept the card now, has threatened legal action against the service.  But that seems to be without any legal merit, as its MoviePass’s business choice if they decide to lose money on a product, and AMC gets paid in full for every ticket so they don’t seem to have an argument.  Do I think this service will last? Maybe.  I wouldn’t gamble any money on that though, but I will gladly gamble ten bucks a month until it fails.  I have seen two movies in four days using the service, and I am more than pleased.  I will be extremely happy when I can pay $20 a month instead and bring someone with me.

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