Subscription movie service Moviepass gets a second chance

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After a false start earlier this summer, Moviepass might finally be able to launch its subscription movie ticket service, thanks to a partnership with theater voucher provider Hollywood Movie Money. The deal breathes new life into Moviepass, which had its first effort to create a Netflix-like, all-you-can-eat subscription plan shut down by movie theaters that threatened not to honor its tickets in late June.

The idea behind Moviepass is to enable avid moviegoers to pay a monthly subscription fee and then view as many films as they want during the 30-day period. Its original trial, expected to launch in July, was shut down before it began after theater chains rebelled against the service.

It’s getting another chance to launch now thanks to the new partnership with Hollywood Movie Money, which gives Moviepass users access to movie tickets across 36,000 screens in the U.S. To get tickets, users will log into the Moviepass site and print out vouchers, which will then be redeemed at the theater. While Moviepass’s initial plan for the service was to launch a limited trial in San Francisco, it’s now expected to launch nationally.

Pricing for the service is still being worked out, in part due to the wide gap between ticket prices in major metropolitan markets and those in more suburban or rural areas. As a result, Moviepass is expected to launch with zone-based pricing, according to a spokesperson, compared to the $50-a-month price that was originally quoted for the service. At launch, Moviepass subscriptions won’t include 3-D or IMAX movies, due to higher prices, but there’s the possibility of other plans being added, the spokesperson said.

Theaters would get paid the full price of their tickets by Moviepass (via Hollywood Movie Money), but there is still some concern that a subscription plan could set a bad precedent for theaters, which are trying to maintain their pricing leverage. At the same time, the ever-rising price of movie tickets is one reason why a plan like Moviepass would launch.

In addition to carrying all the risk in paying full price for movie tickets, Moviepass also argues that its service benefits theater owners by getting people into seats. That leads to more sales of soda, popcorn and candy, which is where the big theater chains actually make all their money. According to the Los Angeles Times, theater attendance is down about five percent over the course of the year so far.

While the first challenge Moviepass faced came from theater chains, there’s still some question about whether or not consumers will find value in the service. When it was first announced, the original $50-a-month price seemed prohibitive, except for a small group of cinephiles. A lot will depend on the final pricing for the service.

(Disclosure: MoviePass is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, the founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.)

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