Earlier today on Twitter and Reddit there was an outcry by MoviePass subscribers that their ticket mobile app didn’t allow them the opportunity to buy tickets to 20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment’s Red Sparrow in such markets as Washington D.C., Southern California and Virginia to name a few. Essentially the option to buy tickets to Red Sparrow were grayed out.
In regards to other titles —Game Night, Black Panther (in 2D), Annihilation, Death Wish, Peter Rabbit, 15:17 to Paris, etc. — they’re all available to purchase. Note in regards to the Red Sparrow blockage, it’s not impacting every single venue in Los Angeles, read at Cinemark 18 near LAX certain showtimes of Red Sparrow are still available.
When reached by Deadline for a response to this conundrum, MoviePass responded as follows:
“We are constantly testing all aspects of our service to optimize the model for theaters, distributors and members. We occasionally remove some films from our ticketing inventory in some markets for a limited time, similar to how we organically promote films in certain markets to better understand member behavior. As part of this ongoing testing, we have stepped up our efforts to remind members to always double-check the MoviePass app to confirm that their preferred showtimes and theaters are available for the movie they are planning to see before they leave for the theater.”
Such maneuvers by MoviePass continue to leave them at a crossroads with their customers and potential studio partners. We have been hearing from sources for some time that MoviePass was using hardball negotiation tactics: While they refused to honor certain big-market cinema chain locations (such as AMC’s) who wouldn’t provide a share of ticket and concession revenues, some of those in the distribution community have cried that MoviePass has refused to list their titles on their app if they don’t enter into a sponsorship deal with the monthly movie ticket service.
This is the second snafu between MoviePass and its subscribers since the beginning of February. The day after the company announced it had crossed 2 million subscribers on Feb. 9, many users on social claimed that their memberships were promptly revoked because they abused the terms of service (i.e. buying a larger format ticket with the MoviePass debit card). These subscribers claimed that wasn’t the case, and in regards to one who Deadline corresponded with, she went to the movies 12 times/month with MoviePass. Essentially some in distribution circles believe that MoviePass trumpets itself as a catalyst for indie moviegoing because it’s a lower volume business versus event titles. The notion is that MoviePass is in the business of increasing subscribers, not individual movie ticket purchases over the long run.
At this moment in time, Red Sparrow is expected to open to $20M, which means that even with MoviePass blocking theaters, it’s not slowing down ticket sales.