MoviePass has announced a new program for film buffs: for a $10 monthly fee, subscribers can see a movie in theaters once a day, at any theater that accepts debit cards.
A startup endeavor spearheaded by early Netflix executive Mitch Lowe, MoviePass has previously offered subscription services designed to get people back into theaters and pull them away from streaming services. The previous iteration of the service was a $15 subscription for two films a month, so this is a decidedly radical jump in the service's value.
While this could definitely be a costly endeavor, MoviePass is both attempting to prove a point and gather key information. Per Bloomberg, MoviePass intends to utilize the service to amass data on viewing behaviors that could be used to help target advertising (MoviePass announced they sold a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. on Tuesday). Lowe is also a firm believer that the biggest factor keeping customers away from movie theaters is the price of a ticket, which continues to balloon even as streaming services increasingly become the primary form of film consumption for many people.
Theater chains should welcome MoviePass' plans. All four of the major theater chains saw significant financial losses in the face of a disappointing summer box office. For every runaway success like Wonder Woman or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there were a handful of underperforming franchise entries like Transformers: The Last Knight or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, as well as disastrous box office bombs for potential franchises like The Dark Tower and The Mummy. This was the summer where the cracks in big budget blockbuster moviemaking really began to show - and while there's not a single solution to the problem, a subscription service that drastically lowers the price of the theater going experience is certainly a move in the right direction.
That said, it's unclear if MoviePass is a longterm solution. The company struggled to turn a profit with its more expensive, less accessible previous subscription services, and users have reported difficulty signing up through the MoviePass app today, as the company's servers are likely getting hammered; that's an understandable hiccup, but still not encouraging. That said, this is the sort of bold move that the film industry needs to take a risk on if the theater-going experience is going to be preserved in any identifiable way. Seeing a movie in a theater is still a unique, rewarding experience - marrying it to a Netflix-esque subscription service could be an ingenious way to save it.