By Aaron Gomez
The company Movie Pass disrupted the film industry again this week. Movie Pass was founded in 2011 by Tech and Entertainment entrepreneur Stacy Spikes and Harnet Watt. The easiest way to explain what Movie Pass is would be, “It's Netflix for Movie Theaters”. They have gone through many ups and down in their short time of being in business, this week they went back to the original pricing of $9.95 but there may be a small catch.
The company started as a voucher system. Members would print off a voucher at home and take it to a participating theater for a movie ticket. But that was changed after a few months when users complained about how much work it was to print out the vouchers. It was changed in October 2012 when they launched an invite only beta that would allow members to use a newly created app that would allow them to pick the theater and show time and put money on a prepaid card to use at that theater.
When this beta took off there was some hostility towards the company primarily from AMC Theaters that wanted nothing to do with the company, saying that the company would not provide enough compensation to them. However, this would be okay if it was coming from one of the smaller theater chains, but when its AMC with their 626 theaters and over 8,000 screen nation wide; they are the largest chain in the US it can cause a problem in their business model.
After AMC pulled out of the deal Movie Pass had to scramble to keep the company alive. In June 2016 they announced that they would be adding a new member to the team, Mitch Lowe, a founding member of Netflix and former President of Redbox. He was named the new CEO and he was already serving as an advisor since 2014. When he took over he wanted to experiment with different pricing tiers in order to appease the larger theater chains.
Lowe wanted to start a low-end and high-end tier ranging from $20 to $99 a month The $99 plan giving subscribers access to unlimited and 3-D films. But those plans were met with criticism from the users them self saying that they were sticking it to the most everyday users. The plans were again changed in July of 2016 moving to a 2, 3, and unlimited movies month prices ranging from $15 to $50 depending on your market. As of December 2016 movie pass has almost 20,000 members.
Now that brings us to this week. Movie Pass was sold to an analytics firm, Helios and Matheson. At the same time of this announcement they would lower their price for unlimited films to $9.95 per month that will not include 3-D or IMAX movies, but there are plans to include those at a later date.
So what does it mean for the end user having the company sold to an analytics firm? Mitch Lowe released a statement saying “after years of studying and analysis we found that people want to go to the movies more often, but the pricing keeps going up, and that prevents them from going more. We're making it more affordable for people." Along with his announcement, Helios and Matheson’s CEO, Ted Farnsworth spoke on their new goal for the newly acquired company. He acknowledged that the goal of the pricing change is to increase its user base to analyze the viewing habits of its users and for the purposes of targeted advertizing. He said the model would be no different from how Facebook and Google use your data.
So basically, when you sign up to become a subscriber of Movie Pass you become a number in their database. In preparation for this article, I signed up to become a member. So I am now a number, subscriber# 349…. A 27-year-old Hispanic Male living in Arlington, TX. They will track my movie watching habits what I go see, what day I go see it, and what time I go see it. Me, like pretty much everyone in my generation, always know we are being tracked, targeted and pandered to.
So my question to you is, would you want to get unlimited 2-D movies for only $9.95 a month, the price that you already pay for Netflix in exchange for your movie watching habits being sold to advertisers?
If you were to ask me, I don’t have a problem with it. I’m not that interesting, you will see me at the movies.