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MoviePass is coming back. Its timing couldn’t be worse

Aug 24, 2022, 10:17 AM
MoviePass, the revolutionary movie ticketing service, which sent shock waves through Hollywood in 2...
MoviePass, the revolutionary movie ticketing service, which sent shock waves through Hollywood in 2017 before collapsing in 2019, has risen from the dead after its co-founder, Stacy Spikes, bought the company out of bankruptcy in November. (Darron Cummings/AP Images via CNN)
(Darron Cummings/AP Images via CNN)

(CNN) — Hollywood loves a comeback story, and MoviePass, one of the industry’s most notorious flops, is trying to write one of the most epic sequels in history.

The revolutionary movie ticketing service, which sent shock waves through Hollywood in 2017 before collapsing in 2019, has risen from the dead after its co-founder, Stacy Spikes, bought the company out of bankruptcy in November.

Spikes has plans to get the service up and running again “on or around September 5th,” according to its website. Details remain scarce, but the company says the new MoviePass will have three pricing tiers that, depending on market, will cost $10, $20 or $30.

“Each level will get a certain amount of credits to be able to use towards movies each month,” the website said. “More details to come.”

Spikes helped found MoviePass before being pushed out in 2018 after selling the company to now-defunct analytics firm Helios and Matheson. He held a presentation in New York in February, during which he announced the relaunch and acknowledged “a lot of people lost money, a lot of people lost trust” after MoviePass went belly-up, according to Variety.

Rebuilding trust is just one of the many challenges MoviePass faces as it makes its return in the coming weeks.

Lots of movie theater plans, not a lot of movies

One of the biggest roadblocks is that MoviePass is coming back at arguably the worst possible time.

Movie chains, including AMC, Regal and Alamo Drafthouse, have embraced their own versions of the subscription model that MoviePass ushered in. Trying to break into moviegoers’ wallets this time around may be difficult.

Consumers today might have a bit of subscription fatigue, considering the litany of streaming services and other bundles they pay for. Not to mention four-decade-high inflation, which has many Americans reining in discretionary purchases, such as going out to the movies.

Even for those who have the cash to spend on something like MoviePass, the movie marketplace is wildly different than it was when the company last existed.

The domestic box office is down 31% this year compared to the same point in 2019, prior to the pandemic. That’s considerably better than 2021, but still not all the way back to “normal.”

Although many moviegoers have returned to theaters, movies by and large haven’t. The number of major releases — films that open in 2,000 or more theaters — is down a whopping 43% compared to 2019, according to Comscore.

Of course, there’s still a lot of films being produced and released, but many are either being held up by supply chain issues in Hollywood or heading directly to streaming. For example, the next big blockbuster, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” won’t be released until November.

If the point of MoviePass is to allow movie lovers to see a lot of films on the cheap, the service only really makes sense if there are a lot of movies to see.

“The stuff dreams are made of”

In the summer of 2017, MoviePass caught fire with consumers with an irresistible “too good to be true” offer: $10 to see one movie a day for an entire month.

The service rapidly grew to 3 million subscribers in less than a year. But MoviePass’ business model was at best unsustainable — and at worst nonexistent.

The company burned through cash and shut down two years after bursting on the scene.

Now it’s back, and the question around Hollywood is: will MoviePass, and its new leadership, finally achieve its Hollywood ending? Can it create a sustainable business that could change the movie landscape forever?

Time will tell, but so far, the story of MoviePass is less “show me the money” and more “the stuff dreams are made of.”


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MoviePass is coming back. Its timing couldn’t be worse