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

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Citizen Kane,” “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, has died at 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of the fund. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content