MoviePass, the ambitious startup that’s trying to introduce a Netflix-like service to cinemas, has tapped Bernadette McCabe as senior vice president of exhibitor relations. The hope is McCabe can head up the company’s outreach to the independent theater chains that have been more receptive to its pitch, as well as smooth ruffled feathers at larger exhibitors that initially threatened legal action. MoviePass is offering a month’s worth of moviegoing for $9.95, which comes out to roughly the price of a single movie ticket in most major markets.
In an interview with Variety, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said the company has received the best response from smaller cinemas, who believe that the service can grow its customer base. He wants McCabe, former Screenvision Media executive, to strengthen those relationships, as well as find new opportunities for collaboration.
“She really understands what we’re all about,” said Lowe. “She’s been in the industry for years and that will help us answer questions, translate what we do, and show the people in exhibition that we can be a positive part of the eco-system.”
McCabe was with Screenvision since 2005, rising to become its senior vice president of business strategy. Prior to that move, McCabe was an equity research associate at the asset management firms of W.P. Stewart Asset Management and Sustainable Growth Advisers.
The company said that McCabe will spearhead “strategic initiatives,” and will generally try to educate exhibitors about the service that MoviePass provides and try to sway them with data that indicates subscribers buy more concessions and attend more movies. Even though MoviePass offers customers a steep discount, it is paying full price for each individual ticket. The company believes that the data it is gathering on consumers will be so valuable that it will ultimately justify the steep losses it will need to maintain in order to grow its market base. So far, it’s certainly been successful at attracting customers. There are currently more than 600,000 subscribers. A far greater number than the company had expected. Recently, MoviePass announced it had raised $100 million to fund operations.
“We view this as helping with customer acquisition costs,” said Lowe.
Lowe said he’s seen a softening in the stance from some of the major chains. AMC chief Adam Aron initially said his company was exploring a legal challenge to MoviePass and predicted the company would fail.
“I was thrilled to see on AMC’s most recent earnings call that Adam Aron went from his early announcement about figuring out ways to stop us to saying he was happy to take our money,” said Lowe. “We’re spending lots of money with them. None of the big guys are threatening lawsuits anymore. Of course, they’re still not offering us discounts on tickets or giving us a cut of concesions, but that’s what you’d expect.”