As it continues to experience financial convulsions, with investors and film business executives questioning its long-term survival, MoviePass has responded to the crisis in bold fashion: It is now selling merch.
The subscription movie ticketing service, which is owned by Helios & Matheson Analytics, has just opened an online store full of pun-laden items. Customers can buy “Hat Damon” for $15.99, “Shirty Dancing” for $20.79, and so on. (There are also a few Marvel-sanctioned Black Panther items.) The price points on everything are well north of the $10 monthly subscription price for MoviePass, a head-scratching reversal of most conventional business plans, though par for the course for the self-styled disruptors at MoviePass.
While it has passed 3 million subscribers and projects having 5 million by year-end, MoviePass is hemorrhaging cash. Because it has a fixed subscription price and has to obtain bulk quantities of tickets, not to mention paying to acquire and satisfy those millions of customers, the company is racking up a cash deficit this summer of some $45 million a month. (On average since September, it estimates the deficit at a mere $25 million.) In an SEC filing last week, MoviePass said it could need more than $1.2 billion in financing to support its ambitious strategy — customer data, you see, not just movie tickets, is said to be the real end game. It will take a lot of “Hood Will Hunting” sales to hit that magic $1.2 billion.
Helios & Matheson shares, which reached $32 last fall, have been languishing in near-penny-stock territory for the past two months, though today they shot up nearly 35% to a whole 31 cents. Execs are seeking shareholder approval for a reverse stock split. That maneuver could prop up the share price in order to stave off a delisting by the Nasdaq, which can happen if the stock stays below $1.
Meanwhile, back on the store website, a note from the company takes a defiantly fantastical tone, describing moviegoing as an escape and even asking the reader, almost poignantly, “Do you want to go to a movie sometime?”
The entire note is a rhapsody about “going on a trip to a completely different place” — an appealing notion when your stock is worth 31 cents a share. And what’s a good voyage without a souvenir? “Since you made this trip to the MoviePass Store,” the note says, “you might as well bring something back with you to the real world.”
Connoisseurs of industry Hindenbergs from Pop.com to the Hollywood Stock Exchange may be inclined to spring for a bit of swag while they can, so they will always remember MoviePass and its “Close Encounters of the Shirt Kind.”