You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.”

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

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Top Hollywood producer Joel Silver has exited his production company Silver Pictures, Variety has confirmed. “Joel Silver recently indicated that he intends to leave Silver Pictures and go out on his own,” Hal Sadoff, a former ICM Partners agent who joined Silver Pictures several years ago as CEO, said in a statement. “We are working [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in

    Danny Boyle-Produced ‘Creation Stories’ Adds Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff

    Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff and a host of other new names have signed on for “Creation Stories,” the film being exec-produced by Danny Boyle about Creation Records co-founder Alan McGee. The producers also unveiled the first shots of Ewen Bremner (“Trainspotting”) as the music mogul. Production is underway on the Irvine Welsh-penned project, with “Lock, [...]

  • 'Annabelle Comes Home' Review: This Grab

    Film Review: 'Annabelle Comes Home'

    In a country that should probably think about renaming itself the American Entertainment State, fan culture now produces an obsessive level of pop scholasticism, one that can parse the rules and details of movies and TV shows as if they were fine points of law. In a review of a horror movie, I once called [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content