It was just two months ago that we covered the very silly story of MoviePass, a service started by some investor that hoped to circumvent the cineplex ticketing industry with an “all you can eat” type movie service that would have people paying $50 a month to see as many movies as they’d like (with many caveats). Not only was it a clearly a scheme to imitate Netflix in a very different sector of the industry, but they failed to consult theaters or studios before their much ballyhooed test run. Naturally they were given the cold shoulder by theater chains that want nothing to do with them, and they retreated.
Now they’re back, and they’ve teamed up with Hollywood Movie Money, the company that administrates those promotional movie tickets you’ll get in cereal boxes or through DVD promotions and rarely end up using. The MoviePass crew, in what reads an almost spitefully impetuous business move, has piggy-backed on the Movie Money system so that they can sell their service and slip their tickets into the system via Hollywood Movie Money vouchers. Essentially you’ll pay your ~$50 a month, choose movie screenings online, print out a voucher, and hope the theater isn’t stubborn about taking a MoviePass-branded pass.
Reporting on the resurrection of the service, Variety got some quotes from theater owners that boil down to, “Fuck those guys.”
The MoviePass guys continue trotting out the line that they could ultimately be a promotional tool that theater chains and studios could exploit if only they’d stop being so silly and let them revolutionize their system with their gimmick.
While I was once excited about this idea, the fact that they were blazing ahead with no connections, no plan, and no idea what the hell they were doing killed any hopes I had. Now they seem like a group desperately trying to wedge into a system that doesn’t want them with their “brilliant” idea of copying Netflix in the theater market. This doesn’t read to me like organic innovation being resisted by draconian corporations, it sounds like guys who are playing copycat, while openly admitting that their model is reliant on people not actually using the service. Again, as if they’ve simply chopped everything that makes Netflix profitable and ground it into their own business plan, they see people leaving DVDs on their coffee tables for six months and hope the same will happen with this $50 MoviePass. They’re not trying to revolutionize how we see movies, they’re trying to wedge another auto-debit into your life and hope they suck a decent amount of cash out of you before you wise up and cancel it.
Maybe I’m wrong to be so cynical, but there’s something increasingly slimy-sounding about this whole endeavor. With Hollywood pushing out more films per weekend then ever, a monthly rate could work well for hardcore theater patrons, but I don’t think that’s really the target market here.
Ultimately I expect it to be a non-issue once the theaters find another way to cockblock these guys, or simply refuse to take their passes altogether. We’ll keep an eye out.
Think this service is something special, or a misguided crock? I’m interested in your opinion… twitter, comments, boards — all good places to let us know.