MoviePass CEO wants to participate in the metaverse
MoviePass is set to return this summer after being revived and revived by its original co-founder Stacy Spikes. During a kickoff presentation on Thursday, Spikes took to the stage in New York City to promote the relaunch of its struggling movie ticket subscription service. There was a lot of fanfare and, somewhat oddly, references to Web3 technology. But one thing Stacy didn’t mention on stage was MoviePass’ metaverse goals.
“Some of the players in the Metaverse right now are a bit game-y, when I feel like you just want to watch the movie,” Spikes said. The edge. “You don’t need fake popcorn; you don’t need tomatoes; you don’t need any other things in there. And that’s where we look at it, and it’s something that we take seriously and think we’ll be in.
At Thursday’s launch event, Spikes showed off a product that looked a little less like a potential bombshell than the service’s beloved but disastrous Unlimited and Cheap Viewing iteration. And he’s willing to exploit just about every avenue, including digital currency and the metaverse, to bring the memesub back to life. The problem is that it’s not clear whether consumers – or heck, even theaters — are prepared for MoviePass 2.0. A cinema subscription powered by virtual reality and decentralized technologies gives the same energy that AMC is getting into crypto. Good but Why?
“The great thing about going to the movies is that there’s no interruption. You can’t stop it, you have to be careful, and otherwise you’re going to waste your money,” says Spikes.” And what we love about it is that it’s event visualization. And I think event visualization can happen in the metaverse.
Spikes did not share details about the company’s metaverse ambitions. He mentioned concerts and live events as an area of focus — “We consider ourselves a live events business,” Spikes tells me — but that seems like a longer term thought for now.
Despite all the buzzwords, Spikes’ ultimate goal for MoviePass hasn’t changed. The main function of the service is still to get people into physical seats in theaters, and Spikes says the new MoviePass will give users more flexibility and a better experience, while helping theaters.
The old MoviePass worked with a debit card-like system that allowed members to see a certain number of movies each month for a flat fee. A lot has yet to be made clear about the new MoviePass — pricing, for example, has yet to be announced, and Spikes declined to share a rough range when I asked. But Spikes says the new subscription service will be tiered, and users will additionally be able to earn additional movie credits by viewing ads through Spikes’ existing business, PreShow.
This time around, Spikes says, members will also have more flexibility to be able to do things like bring a friend – something that wasn’t an option with the last MoviePass. Based on the slides shared during this week’s presentation, the number of credits per movie will vary depending on factors such as peak times and possibly even the title’s popularity and location. Spikes insists this is a key differentiator between this new MoviePass and the one that garnered 1,000 memes for its mismanagement.
“It’s a bit of a change in concept – it’s less about price and more flexibility so people can go where they want, and even if you’re in the middle of the month and want to go more, you’ll be able to get more credits and go uphill, so that adds a lot of flexibility to it, where the previous model was kind of a unique model,” says Spikes. “We think the unique stiffness is something something that needs to change.”
This flexibility could be a huge boon to MoviePass 2.0 at a difficult time for the movie industry. Exhibitors are beginning to reclaim their exclusivity windows, and recent releases like Spider-Man: No Coming Home reported that audiences are increasingly comfortable returning to auditoriums for film premieres. But pandemic releases are always wildly changeable, and as things begin to return to normal, streaming executives have been hesitant to fully revert to pre-COVID release patterns.
Spikes’ launch event this week reads like a love letter to cinemas. In fact, it sometimes seemed like he was talking directly to them. (He very well could have been – MoviePass hasn’t announced exposure partners yet, but Spikes says The edge the company has “very advanced conversations that we’re very comfortable with.” If MoviePass is to succeed, it needs movie theaters, and the landscape of the movie industry has changed dramatically in the years since the old MoviePass caught fire. .
Many cinemas, for example, now have their own subscription services that reward experienced users with discounts. When I ask Spikes how MoviePass fits into a world where subscriptions like the Alamo Season Pass and AMC Stubs A-List exist, he says smaller theaters have shown interest, while larger chains are taking the wait-and-see approach.
“I mean, obviously those who don’t have a plan have a lot of interest in working with us. Those who have a plan are waiting, I think, to see what we do,” he says. “It’s an ongoing conversation, but certainly the bottom 50% who don’t have millions of dollars to deploy the technology we have are leaning in and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve seen how you’ve affected our business, when can we engage?'”
Still, Spikes seems to believe that MoviePass can revolutionize the theater industry. Spikes said during his presentation that MoviePass 2.0’s “moonshot” goal is to double annual revenue and attendance for the movie industry as a whole with a “30 by 30” initiative. Essentially, Spikes wants subscriptions (to any service, not just MoviePass) to account for 30% of all domestic ticket sales revenue in the industry by 2030.
To achieve anything close to the fabricated success of the early MoviePass — the subscription service had millions of users at its peak, thanks to its economically unviable price tag of $10 — the new MoviePass will need to regain consumer trust. Before Spikes bought the company last year, former MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics did a terrific job with rabid customers and reportedly crashed the system on purpose.
When I ask Stacy about Helios and Matheson Analytics executives Ted Farnsworth and Mitch Lowe who ultimately fired Spikes from the company he co-founded, he says he thinks there’s potential for businesses whose original founders are returning to the business to restore trust. But he also credits former MoviePass subscribers who “kept his spirits alive” as motivating him to revive the business.
“As for Mitch and Ted, I haven’t spoken to them since. When I was fired, I received an e-mail. And we never had words, ever,” he says. “You know, it’s very good. We are excited for the opportunity to rebuild where we were and re-establish the brand to help the movie industry.
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