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MoviePass returns; will exhibs cooperate?

Monthly all-you-can-watch service partners with Hollywood Movie Money

MoviePass, the $50 monthly all-you-can-watch movie ticket service that scrapped its June launch when angry exhibitors refused to honor it, is back — and this time, it appears the New York-based startup may have found a way to get its discount-holding patrons past the box office window without be- ing hassled.

MoviePass announced Monday that it was partnering with Hollywood Movie Money, an established ticketing utility whose vouchers, which for years have serviced the likes of DVD and cereal-box promotions, are accepted at nearly every indoor venue in the U.S.

Under the new arrangement, MoviePass subscribers print out Hollywood Movie Money vouchers at home, and theaters will be electronically reimbursed for the full price of a ticket at the point of redemption.

When MoviePass attempted a beta test via smartphone vouchers in June, exhibitors pushed back, claiming they couldn’t support the ticketing system — but mostly complaining that the service’s all-you-can-watch model would undermine traditional per-ticket pricing. Exhibs also didn’t appreciate that MoviePass attempted to launch without warning. With the Movie Money deal, MoviePass felt it didn’t need to go back to exhibs for their blessing, since that program is already well established.

“Our relationships with each of the theaters is to accept Hollywood Movie Money regardless of where it comes from, so we have no obligation to advise (theaters),” Ron Randolph-Wall, CEO of Quantum Rewards, operators of Hollywood Movie Money, told Variety. “They only care that we pay them in real time, and pay them full price.”

But from the exhibs’ perspective, it’s not that simple.

“We’re not going to let anybody outside set prices for us,” Jack NyBlom, owner of Bay Area chain Cameras Cinemas, told Variety in June — a sentiment exhibitors echoed Monday when they learned of the relaunch, which was expected to get under way next month.

MoviePass founder Stacy Spikes said the company’s business model relies on patrons’ tendency to underuse such services, as well as ancillary revenues like online advertising and other promotions. Whether that vision works out financially will largely depend on his company’s ability to convert on the 30,000 or so people who have already signed up to try the service but have yet to pay any money for it.

Once they do, and start showing up at theaters that accept Hollywood Movie Money promotions, it remains to be seen whether theaters will play along: The MoviePass name will be printed on the vouchers, meaning vigilant exhibs could be stubborn about redeeming them if they chose to do so.

Spikes said he hoped exhibs would change their mind if his service translates into more paying customers filling seats.

“We’re in the promotional movie ticketing business,” Spikes said. “We’re inspired and hope that the theaters see this as a marketing tool that they can use themselves.”

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