Subscription ticket venture MoviePass DOA

$50-per-month service suspends beta test after exhibs squawk

By the time the dust settled on the planned weekend launch of Movie-Pass — a $50-per-month service that would have allowed subscribers unlimited access to theaters using their smartphones as tickets — the AOL-backed venture had given up the fight … for now, at least.

Less than four months after the shock of premium VOD, exhibitors were blindsided this week by the beta rollout of MoviePass, which on Monday quietly announced its service at 21 theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area.

By Thursday morning, the theaters on that list — most of them Landmark and AMC chains — were apoplectic, insisting that they’d never been contacted by the New York-based venture and had neither the intention nor means to participate in it.

“Plans for this program were developed without AMC’s knowledge or input,” Stephen Colanero, chief marketing officer at AMC, said in a statement. “As MoviePass is currently designed, it does not integrate well into our programs and could create significant guest experience issues.”

Popular on Variety

And on Thursday night, after reps for all 21 theaters told Variety they’d had no prior communication with MoviePass and no plans to cooperate, MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes waved the white flag.

“I don’t think we’re going to get it solved with this long weekend coming up,” Spikes told Variety. “There are just a lot of important people on vacation right now and too much to be worked out.”

That came as good news to the exhibitors, all of whom had been hastily drawing up plans for dealing with subscribers who might have shown up expecting admission this weekend. Those plans varied from chain to chain:

Camera Cinemas and Big Cinemas, which represented five of the 21 locations, said they would most likely have politely turned people away. AMC instructed its six theaters on the list to deal with customers on a case-by-case basis, gauging their level of dissatisfaction and comping them accordingly.

But Landmark’s 10 locations would have honored already-purchased redemption codes, which offers a glimpse into some of the venture’s backstory: MoviePass had planned all along to pay theaters the full ticket price via movietickets.com, which, by no coincidence, is owned by AOL — a primary backer of the MoviePass venture. In fact, each of the 21 theaters listed as part of the MoviePass beta test is a subscriber to the movietickets.com service.

None of them sells tickets through NBCUniversal-owned Fandango, which previoulsly partnered with Groupon for a two-for-one promotion for the Lionsgate release of “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

Spikes had hoped that a quiet beta test of MoviePass in one market could give the venture’s execs the data they needed to present a stronger case to exhibs and distribs, with an eye toward taking the effort nationwide by fall. Spikes told Variety that he still hopes to bring the model to market once it is better explained to potential partners.

But even in the long run, that could be a hard sell.

“We’re not going to let anybody outside set prices for us,” Jack NyBlom, owner of Cameras Cinemas, told Variety. “Or this kind of program.”

More Film

  • Elvis Presley 1968 Comeback Special

    'Elvis: That's the Way It Is' Documentary Set for Re-Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    Trafalgar Releasing has set a re-release for the concert documentary “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is” for April 22 in 14 countries, Variety has learned exclusively. The event will mark the 50th anniversary of the film’s original release by MGM. Most of the remastered footage was shot at the International Hotel in Las Vegas with [...]

  • Blackhall Studios to Build Major Production

    Blackhall Studios to Build Major Production Facility in U.K.

    Blackhall Studios, the Atlanta-based production hub that has hosted several high-profile shoots in recent years, has signed an agreement with the University of Reading to develop its first U.K. facility. Due for completion in early 2022, the new studio will offer physical production stages alongside digital media facilities tailored for special effects, augmented reality and [...]

  • Alberto Martin, Alegre Cordelia, Alvaro Gago,

    'Bees,' ‘Happiness,' 'Quinquis' Selected by Madrid’s ECAM Incubator (EXCLUSIVE)

    BARCELONA – “20,000 Species of Bees,” “Something Like Happiness” and “Los quinquis” are among five feature projects that will be put through development at the ECAM Madrid Film School’s pioneering Incubator program. The Incubator forms part of The Screen, a program at the ECAM Madrid Film School, which is aimed at fostering links between on-the-rise Spain-based [...]

  • Onward Animated Film 2020

    ‘Onward’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Disney Pixar claims the top spot in spending with “Onward.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $4.99 million through Sunday for 784 national ad airings on 35 networks. [...]

  • Josef Mengele

    'Wasp Network' Producer Teams With Kirill Serebrennikov on 'Josef Mengele' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov, whose last film “Leto” competed at Cannes in 2018, is teaming with “Wasp Network” producer Charles Gillibert to adapt the best-selling French novel “The Disappearance of Josef Mengele.” Winner of the prestigious Renaudot Prize in 2017, Olivier Guez’s novel “The Disappearance of Josef Mengele” was published in more than 30 countries [...]

  • Sabrina Carpenter

    Film News Roundup: Sabrina Carpenter's 'Short History of the Long Road' Finds Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, Sabrina Carpenter’s “The Short History of the Long Road” gets a home, comedian Jo Koy’s life will become a movie, “True to the Game” is getting a sequel and APA promotes Chris Ridenhour. ACQUISITION FilmRise has acquired Sabrina Carpenter’s coming-of-age drama “The Short History of the Long Road” and is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content