MoviePass, the subscription moviegoing service whose spectacular fall after a buzzy start ended in liquidation two years ago, is planning to return in a new incarnation this summer.
Stacey Spikes, the former studio marketer who co-founded MoviePass only to be ousted as its CEO, outlined its revival plans this afternoon at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre. He did not reveal pricing or a number of other anticipated details, but instead sought to fill in the audience as to “where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.”
The “MoviePass 2.0” event, which was also live-streamed, winked at the company’s meteoric rise and even steeper fall. Images lighting up the screen included a gushy TikTok made in recent months by a forlorn fan still tending the flame as well as the famous black-and-white photograph of the Hindenburg disaster. Spikes also made an earnest pitch for the viability of MoviePass and its grassroots support, standing before a picture of a phoenix spreading its wings.
The January 2020 demise of MoviePass was followed by two tumultuous years in the exhibition due to Covid. Spikes said he is undaunted by the specter of moviegoing fading even after the pandemic eases. “It bugs me to hear people talk about the end of the movie industry,” he said. “What are you talking about?! It’s the greatest thing on earth.”
He and his business partners acquired the brand out of bankruptcy and have hired a number of former employees, including engineers. While the rebuilt app is still under constructions, Spikes showed a few screenshots of the beta version. He offered everyone in attendance a free one-year subscription in exchange for their feedback. “We’re going to make mistakes,” Spikes said. “We’re not going to get it right out of the box. It’s going to be trial and error. But if you guys can help us build a marketplace, we really think we can take this places.”
Pricing, a key variable, was not confirmed during the 40-minute presentation. The service will now have variable tiers of pricing as opposed to a single, all-you-can-eat one, as it was toward the end of its run.
Spikes, who had previously worked as an exec at Miramax, October Films and Sony Music, co-founded MoviePass in 2011. During his initial tenure at the company, MoviePass developed a devoted following, with much of its focus on the specialty business. It accounted for 4% of the total box office. Once it was acquired by analytics firm Helios & Matheson and backed by venture capital, the bar was raised higher, with management at that point deciding to offer unlimited movies for $10 a month.
In 2018, when MoviePass started to hit turbulence, major wide releases like Mission: Impossible – Fallout experienced such heavy demand that it essentially fried the circuit board of MoviePass. The company was unable to obtain enough tickets to fulfill customer orders, a noisy mess that was followed by a series of revamps of the pricing strategy. As Spikes noted, “A lot of people lost money. A lot of people lost trust. A lot of people were hurt and disappointed.”
Other new elements mentioned at the event include a piece of the company being available for purchase by avid fans of MoviePass, which had 3 million subscribers at the time it shut down. The new version of the company will have “Web3” capability, he said, as well as enhanced functionality for exhibitors, who can sign up at no charge to be a partner location.
In a series of photographs of theaters the company plans to partner with, Spikes showed pictures of an Alamo Drafthouse location, New York’s Angelika Cinemas and a number of more recently built multiplexes. Left unsaid was the outlook for reaching with major circuits like AMC or Regal, who came to regard MoviePass 1.0 as a nuisance taking a piece of their revenue.
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