MoviePass Study: Theater Subscription Service Boosts Attendance by 111% (EXCLUSIVE)

MoviePass Subscription Boosts Theater Attendance 111%,
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MoviePass is using data to try to prove to exhibitors that it comes in peace.

The controversial subscription service says research demonstrates that it can help theaters attract crowds and claims that its $30- to $45-a-month program boosts attendance by 111%.

The Netflix-like service has been eyed warily by exhibitors, who are concerned that it will cut into their bottom line and prevent them from setting ticket prices. With CinemaCon, an annual exhibition industry confab happening next month in Las Vegas, MoviePass is hoping that the results will prove it will increase revenues for theater owners and help them appeal to millennials.

“People may not listen to ideas, but they listen to numbers,” said MoviePass founder Stacy Spikes. “The numbers are overwhelming, and they’re headed in the right direction.”

Assembled by Mather Analytics, a subscription analytics service that counts newspaper and magazine companies such as Meredith and Tribune as clients, the results show that MoviePass is driving business at off-peak times and with a demographic that’s harder and harder for exhibitors to attract.

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MoviePass boosts mid-week attendance by 50%. Seventy five percent of the company’s subscribers are under the age of 35, and the average age is 26. That’s important, because there’s been a downward trend in moviegoers ages 18 to 39 in recent years, hitting lows in 2014, according to research by the Motion Picture Association of America.

“The younger, harder to get to come to theaters — we’re finding they are the ones who are signing up,” said Spikes. “It’s generational. With Netflix, Spotify and Pandora, millennials are in the habit of consuming things through subscription services.”

MoviePass subscriptions offer users unlimited access to movies playing in standard formats, but most plans don’t provide tickets to 3D, Imax or other premium large format showings. Spikes declined to say how many subscribers the services currently attracts.

The domestic box office reached record levels in 2015, fueled by blockbusters such as “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” However, attendance has remained essentially flat in recent years, and some of those increases can be attributed to higher ticket pricing and surcharges on 3D and other formats. The exhibition sector is also under pressure from digital forms of entertainment and higher-quality television programming, which gives movies more competition.

MoviePass has undergone several iterations since it first launched in 2011 without ever gaining widespread acceptance from major theater chains. At various points, exhibitors have refused to work with the company or tried to boycott the product. In 2014, it managed to make some headway, partnering with AMC Theatres on a pilot program in Boston and Denver.

One statistic that may soften their antipathy: MoviePass subscribers spend 123% more on concessions. Exhibitors make the bulk of their profits on snacks, and particularly popcorn sales, which carry healthy margins. The average moviegoer spends roughly $120 a year on concessions, but MoviePass users spend close to $400 annually, Spikes said.

To gather its data, Mather looked at MoviePass users in two markets from July 2014 through December 2015. It tracked customers who belonged to an unnamed exhibitor’s loyalty program before and after they signed up for the service. The company did not say how many people it followed, other than that it was in the “thousands.” It looked at consumer behavior in two major markets, finding in one zone the average monthly attendance went from 1.56 visits to 3.12, while in the other zone it jumped from 1.58 to 3.54.

“The size of the increase was larger than we expected,” said Mather president Matt Lindsay. “The pricing model removes the marginal cost of going to another movie, so people have more incentive to go again.”

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  1. Considering they just purged all of their power users, this number is going to shrink very quickly.

  2. Quinn Coleman says:

    MoviePass is systematically canceling subscriptions of “heavy” users such as myself who have been loyal customers since inception. Nothing more than a one sentence email to those of use who received them notifying us that we were canceled with virtually no explanation. Have loved the company and concept, but find this to be a horrible way to treat long-time users. Can’t get an explanation from the company proper. Someone should look into this.

  3. We’ve had MoviePass for a few years and absolutely love it. We have used it all over the country in different states and at different theater chains and don’t find it too limited at all. We each have our own MoviePass card and it’s still a great deal, especially if you see movies several times a week like we do (we are movie nerds). I’ll also second the concession statistics because we ALWAYS buy something when we go to a movie (which is now more than we used to go thanks to MoviePass). At Regal, that amounts to at least a $6.00 soda and usually a $6 popcorn to go along with it. I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t have one of the cards, it’s the best thing ever for movie lovers. And no, I don’t work for the company — I just absolutely love the product!!

  4. Richard says:

    Been a member for 3 years. Wife too. Best thing ever.

  5. Movie-Goer says:

    I’m a MoviePass subscriber in Los Angeles (which carries the $45/month membership price). Matinee ticket prices near me are hitting $13-15 in most theater chains, and MoviePass has been an amazing investment. I used to have to trek up to the Burbank AMC for the $7 movies before noon if I wanted to see something, so I would only go maybe twice a month. With MoviePass, I can go to the movies every weekend. On average I probably see 4-6 movies a month. And since I feel like I’m saving money on tickets, I’m more willing to go to the concession stand and drop $10 on a box of candy and a bottle of water.

  6. eCinemaOne says:

    If MoviePass would be viable – usable at multiple theater chains and locations, etc – i would use it in a heartbeat. But as it is, it’s too limited for our needs. I also don’t like that they don’t offer a dual mode membership – my wife and I would each have to purchase separate memberships and buy tickets separately. In this day of reserved seating in most of our local theaters, it would be awkward if we had to sit apart from each other…

    • Just curious, eCinemaOne, when you say that it’s too limited — what do you mean? We have used our MoviePass all over the country in different states and at different theater chains (AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Century and more). The only place I remember not taking the MoviePass card was ArcLight in Los Angeles and Harkins in Phoenix.

    • Mark says:

      You’re upset that they don’t offer a “dual mode membership?” You mean a Family Subscription where you get a lower price even though you and your wife are getting the same FULL experience? Really?

      Economics, it’s what’s for life.

  7. Hans Dieter Ulrich says:

    The unlimited admission pass has been in widespread usage in the UK and France for many years – decades in France. It has had no discernable effect on total industry attendance. It does act as a customer loyalty tool – encouraging a consumer to go to one circuit’s theaters, and bring their friends with them, versus a competing theater – after all, they’ve already paid. The overwhelming experience of the circuits that offer the unlimited pass is that the heaviest film goers buy the pass. There is no analog to a fitness center membership. People buy gym memberships in the mistaken belief they will go to the gym, then they don’t go. People already know how often they go to the movies, they do the math, and if the numbers work they buy the pass. For the heaviest movie goers (who are the heaviest concession buyers, so that variable is co-linear and not a surprising result nor does it contribute any new information) it represents a discount to the normal price they would pay over time. Lower prices do encourage consumption – all pricing strategies recognize that and one has to balance lower prices, volume and profitability. The decision as to whether it is a good idea is exceedingly complex – one needs to track movie going habits for a pass holder BEFORE the pass versus after the pass – how much is actually incremental is the question. UK circuits have detailed customer data (they operate their own ticketing services) so they have done this and it shows that there is minimal incremental attendance for their pass holders – they were already heavy movie goers. The evidence at the European circuits is that they net break even or lose a little money with the unlimited pass. However, once started it becomes difficult if not impossible to stop as you face a consumer revolt if you cancel the program; one need only look at the airlines’ frequent flier program to see that effect in action. As it is, this random data point proves nothing about whether it is a good idea or bad idea for theaters to discount prices by selling an unlimited pass to their heaviest use customers.

  8. None of this is terribly surprising. This is the way media is consumed now.

    If the theatre’s goal is to get me in the door to buy popcorn and soda, don’t make the price of a movie ticket a barrier for entry.

    When AMC was in Toronto, I went to movies every weekend with their ‘$6 before Noon’ promotion. I would watch anything that came out.

    Now I only go every few weeks. We’re talking a difference of a few dollars, but it makes me second guess and my pocket wins when that happens.

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