MoviePass, the subscription service that collapsed in 2019 after offering discounted theater tickets for less than $10 a month, said it was relaunching next month, prompting skepticism from previous customers and film industry experts.
The company said it would open a waiting list Thursday for the “New MoviePass,” which is expected to launch “on or around” Sept. 5, according to its website.
The company said it would offer three pricing tiers, $10, $20 and $30, with each providing different credit amounts to be used toward movies each month.
Founded in 2011, the company paid movie theaters full price for every admission but offered discounted prices to subscribers, pinning its business model on the assumption that more people would sign up for the service than would use it. In 2017, new leaders at the company, Mitch Lowe, a former executive with Netflix and Redbox, and Theodore Farnsworth, CEO of Helios + Matheson, the publicly traded entity that acquired MoviePass that year, cut the fee to $9.95 a month and allowed customers to see a movie every day. Three million people joined the service and headed to theaters, repeatedly pushing the company to the brink.
There were warning signs that MoviePass would not survive, including in July 2018 when it borrowed $5 million after it said it could not pay its bills and had experienced a service interruption. Later that summer, the company began limiting members to three movies a month from a rotating list of films. The company later increased its prices and reshuffled its leadership before shutting down in September 2019.
Last year, the company agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission accusations that it knowingly deceived customers, made the service difficult to use for some and exposed personal data. At one point, the company invalidated the passwords of the 75,000 most active members, while falsely claiming that it had “detected suspicious activity or potential fraud” on their accounts, the FTC said. Thereafter, many members encountered a number of technical problems preventing them from using the service.
MoviePass was sold back to its co-founder, Stacy Spikes, late last year.
In announcing its relaunch, the company said Monday that its service would feature all major U.S. theater chains and that previous MoviePass members who joined the waiting list would receive free bonus credits.
MoviePass declined Tuesday to answer further questions, including how many people were expected to join the service and how it intended to quell skepticism after the failure of its previous iteration. The company said it would offer more details closer to the launch.
On Monday, amid the news that MoviePass was being resurrected, people on Twitter shared their concerns, and some even rejected the idea of signing up again.
It was unclear whether MoviePass would survive a second life in an already crowded cinema subscription market, said Daniel Loria, editorial director at Boxoffice Pro, a company that analyzes industry trends.
“The competitive landscape for a cinema subscription is no longer the novelty,” Loria said. “I think consumers know what the novelty is — it’s making sure that MoviePass in this iteration can provide competitive value for the consumer in the way that major circuits like AMC, like Regal, like Cinemark, are already doing.”
Attendance at movie theaters in the first quarter of this year was down more than 40% compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic upended life, according to MediaPost.
Loria said data shows that people will still flock to the theater for blockbuster films — as they did with “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick” — but that most movie lovers also enjoy films at home.
“The big question mark that we have to define right now is the frequency of visits of those moviegoers and how to increment that,” he said. “I think that’s at the center of what MoviePass is trying to achieve.”
He said MoviePass’ survival would ultimately come down to the support of moviegoers.
“I think right now if you’re already paying AMC, Cinemark, Regal $10 to $25 a month for a subscription service, would you get a second one? And if you don’t already have a subscription service, do you decide to go with MoviePass when there are other options in the marketplace?”