UPDATED at 3PM PT to reflect Wednesday trading. The stock of MoviePass parent Helios & Matheson has gone into free fall, with two days of steep drops leaving it at an all-time low of 79 cents a share.
In an SEC filing Tuesday, the company disclosed that it had only $15.5 million in available cash at the end of April, plus $27.9 million on deposit with merchants. Even though the available funds total $43.4 million, that’s not much more than the company’s monthly expenses of late, which are nearly $22 million.
Helios & Matheson shares dropped 46% today, after falling 31% Tuesday. Their 52-week high came last Oct. 11 at $38.86, a level which valued the company at $375 million amid optimism about its potential as a tonic for the exhibition sector. This week has told a much different story.
“In 2018, we expect our cash deficit from month to month will vary significantly,” the SEC filing said, citing factors such as variability at movie financing unit MoviePass Ventures. “Because the length of time and costs associated with the development of the MoviePass and MoviePass Ventures business model is highly uncertain, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require.”
If adequate funding, either through an existing stock-sale plan or other sources, fails to materialize, the filing added, “we may be required to reduce the scope of our planned growth or otherwise alter our business model, objectives and operations, which could harm our business, financial condition and operating results.”
On the plus side, the filing pointed out, MoviePass implemented two new measures in April that have already trimmed the company’s cash deficit in May by 35%. The measures are new technology that prevents subscribers from sharing their passes with non-subscribers, and a new policy allowing members to see a movie only one time. (Farewell, daily Avengers matinees, in other words.) Last month, the company reversed its plan to cap the number of movies its members can see each month, reverting to the original unlimited plan.
Ted Farnsworth is chairman and CEO of Helios & Matheson and Mitch Lowe is CEO of MoviePass.
Many stakeholders in the theatrical movie ecosystem, especially exhibitors, have long expressed skepticism about the viability of MoviePass given its $9.95 monthly price for unlimited moviegoing. The company pays for tickets, which it then furnishes subscribers for a flat rate. Exhibitors have been wary because, even though the ticket sales are booked as ticket revenue, the subscription concept is seen as potentially damaging to their already uncertain long-term value in the media food chain. Studios, too, fear that the theatrical experience could become degraded if flat-rate pricing turns it into more of a commodity than an event experience.
Late Monday, during top exhibitor AMC Entertainment’s quarterly earnings call, CEO Adam Aron repeated his longstanding concerns about MoviePass. Aron said the company paid about $12 a ticket for hundreds of thousands of tickets in March and April, but subscribers had attended AMC theaters less than three times apiece each month.
At the current subscription price, Aron said, “There is not enough money to spread around MoviePass and Hollywood studios and theater operators so that Hollywood can make quality movies and theaters can operate quality theaters.”
MoviePass recently acquired MovieFone and emphasized digital data collection during its rise to nearly 3 million subscribers. Farnsworth and Lowe see big potential in selling that moviegoer data to advertisers and other third parties.