MoviePass’ new owner hopes service can drive cinema’s post-lockdown return


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Stacy Spikes has a long history with MoviePass.

MoviePass’ new owner, Stacy Spikes, an original co-founder of the film-ticket subscription service, bought MoviePass on Wednesday in a bankruptcy auction. And he likens the purchase to bringing a child coming back home.

“You created something. You watched it grow up. You watched it start to change the world and the industry — from just a little idea you were working by yourself for so many years. And then there’s this moment you think, ‘Oh my God, this thing is really going to alter Hollywood,'” Spikes said. “And then we all kind of watched it go the other way.”

Spikes, who also founded the Urbanworld Film Festival and created a branded content platform for cinema advertising, called PreShow, noted that his work on MoviePass dates back to 2005. His initial tenure included the service’s first launch, in 2011, and wrapped up in 2018 when he was fired while the service was owned by the now-defunct Helios and Matheson Analytics. He says there’s still a lot of opportunity to pursue with MoviePass, even though the service had a roller-coaster demise that included security issues, confusing membership changes and multiple price points before it shuttered in 2019.

“I still believe there is a subscription business that can exist in cinema,” Spikes said. He said he can’t yet say exactly what a new MoviePass will look like but that there’ll be a focus on the theatrical experience as cinemas reopen from 2020’s pandemic shutdowns. “It’s post-COVID. We’re living in a different world. We’re trying to get people back to going to movies, and all I kept thinking to myself was, Can we get back in the ring and try and help drive traffic to cinema?”

Spikes said that even streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus, which are often seen as shifting audiences toward at-home viewing, have continued their efforts in the cinema market with certain titles, whether for award consideration or for box office opportunity. Spikes hopes changes in the film industry may now be favorable to MoviePass’ second life.

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On a website teasing the return of MoviePass, the new logo takes on a black-and-white color scheme.


MoviePass

“We need to feel the market out. Exhibitors weren’t as open to the idea back in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. It was an uphill fight. But hopefully there’s more of an open mind to what we were trying to do,” Spikes said. Keeping a solid business model also is a top priority for Spikes, who hopes to revisit several ideas from his original tenure to see how they might fare in today’s market. What likely won’t be revisited however is an unsustainable price point.

“I think the only thing that’s really clear is the $10 price point, which was a divider between me and the acquisition team that bought it. It’s just at a certain point, if you are starting too low, the business model is not going to work,” Spikes said.

In the years since MoviePass brought down the curtain, rival flick-tix subscription services run by movie chains like AMC, Regal and Alamo Drafthouse have averaged from $15 to $30 a month, depending on a customer’s region. 


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Spikes notes that despite MoviePass’ rocky ending — when customers were burdened with surge pricing, limited availability and technical hiccups — chatter about the service hasn’t stopped. 

“One of the things that kept us going was seeing consumers still posting about it and talking about it,” Spikes said. “Chat rooms were still active, and people were still talking about the concept and the idea, and it’s an idea [that’s] bigger than a business.” 

Some of that chatter included a hoax website that alleged MoviePass was returning in 2021. Though that didn’t come true, Spikes said the real return of MoviePass will hopefully include beta testing while prepping for a launch sometime in 2022.



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