The new MoviePass plans to support all theaters, but it won't be a free-for-all.
MoviePass plans to make its big return this summer, with a retooled movie ticket service that the company likens to more of a credit-based marketplace. Pricing was not announced, but the new MoviePass plans to offer a variety of tiers that will equate to credits that are then spent on movie tickets.
MoviePass CEO Stacy Spikes said the system allows movie theaters to set different prices for off peak times, will let credits roll over and will also allow advertising partnerships where customers can earn more credits by watching ads.
Spikes made no mention of an unlimited plan, which is hardly a surprise given how the $10 unlimited MoviePass plan of the past quickly became unsustainable before the service shut down in 2019. But theater partnerships, which allowed a movie theater to let customers book a ticket directly from the MoviePass app instead of using the credit card, are planned to get a bigger push in the new version of MoviePass.
Spikes said that a partnered theater back in 2018 typically saw a 30% to 40% increase in attendance, and that the new MoviePass will allow theaters to make direct offers to a customer, such as reduced-price tickets if the system shows a customer hasn't attended recently. A MoviePass rep confirmed that partnered theaters will also be able to see what other theaters their customers are attending, but personal information will not be released.
The MoviePass credit card system is also returning for booking tickets at theaters that aren't partnered, requiring a customer to select a showtime in the MoviePass app and then use the card in the theater to purchase a ticket.
MoviePass will also be integrating PreShow, which Spikes describes as an advertising platform that will make use of facial detection technology to make sure a customer watches an opted-into ad, in exchange for additional credits. During a demo, a video served up automatically paused when the system detected the viewer had looked away, requiring direct attention in order to complete the transaction for the credit. A MoviePass rep confirmed that this works through the front-facing camera on a phone.
"This is happening only on your phone, uniquely to you, and the credits that earn are your credits that go into your virtual wallet that you get to spend, so it's your own money," Spikes said. An earlier version of this technology without facial detection led to most customers starting the video and then putting the phone down.
While it's now common for streaming services to offer cheaper, ad-supported rates, it's notable that PreShow will be using its facial detection technology to compel attention in exchange for a cheaper movie ticket.
Spikes said that fans are a big part of why he wanted to bring MoviePass back, and noted that if a fan would like, a portion of the company is going to be made available as an investment opportunity through the company's website. Spikes said that those who choose to invest will be given certain benefits, possibly including a lifetime membership to MoviePass.
The MoviePass relaunch comes after the service was acquired by Spikes, a co-founder who previously worked on MoviePass as far back as 2005. Spikes saw MoviePass through its 2011 launch until 2018, when he was fired while the service was owned by the now-defunct Helios and Matheson Analytics.
Spikes told CNET in November that despite MoviePass's roller coaster of issues that led to its 2019 shutdown, there is still a subscription business opportunity in the cinema market.
"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 in our interview.
In the years since MoviePass left the field, several US movie theater companies have launched their own ticket services. Rival services from AMC, Regal and Alamo Drafthouse are still in operation and range between $15 to $30 a month depending on a customer's region.
MoviePass internal data from 2018 that was part of Thursday's presentation, first published by Insider, shows that the service drove as much as 20% of ticket sales for certain movies that year. MoviePass also estimates that the service drove 4% of overall ticket sales across the US market in 2018.
Sorry to Bother You received 19.4% of its ticket sales from MoviePass, according to the data, followed by Annihilation with 18.3% and Isle of Dogs with 15.3%.
It's worth noting that MoviePass was experimenting wildly with its service in 2018, at times including surge pricing, limiting some plans to three movies a month and mandating requests for customers to take pictures of movie ticket stubs to combat abuse. That ticket-verification program, among other issues, eventually led to the Federal Trade Commission scolding MoviePass in 2021 for deceptive practices and inadequate data collection.
What do you think of this new upcoming version of MoviePass? Would you want to sign up, or are you already a fan of a different movie subscription service since MoviePass first shut down? Talk about it in the comments.