Atom Tickets Wants to Streamline Moviegoing by Including Concessions in App

Atom Tickets is a kinder, gentler disruptor.

Exhibitors may be viewing MoviePass, the subscription service for filmgoing, about as warmly as they would the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but they’re much more bullish on start-up ticketing service Atom.

Part of the reason is that the company, which was founded in 2014 and had a national rollout two years later, has put concessions front and center in its business model. Theaters, of course, make much of their profits selling customers popcorn and carbonated beverages at healthy markups.

“We want movie theaters to be the same as every other aspect of consumers’ lives,” says Matthew Bakal, co-founder and chairman of Atom. “Domino’s, Starbucks, Subway and everyone under the sun allows digital ordering.”

So Atom has integrated food and drink sales into its service. It’s offering digital preorders in 300 theaters and plans to be in 400 by the end of 2018. It’s available in Regal, AMC and other exhibition chain locations and has just inked a deal to offer the service in Southern Theatres venues.

“The idea is to get to a point where there’s no more pulling out your wallet,” says Bakal. “It’s more like an Uber- or Lyft-like experience.”

Atom has data to suggest that its method works. Surveying 3,500 customers, the numbers found that 52% of those polled said long lines were their No. 1 barrier to ordering concessions, while 50% said they would buy more often and more items if they could preorder. Seventy-two percent of Atom’s customers said they used some type of food-and-beverage mobile-app ordering service.

Bakal and co-founder Ameesh Paleja (who left recently to become CTO of Starz) launched Atom as a way to make moviegoing more of a social experience. The company’s technology allows users to organize a trip to the movies, from paying for the tickets to selecting seats with groups of friends. In a sign of support from the major studios, Atom has received $50 million in backing from 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and Disney. It also recently wrapped up a $60 million funding round led by Fidelity. Atom says it has 4 million monthly active users and 10 million downloaded apps. It primarily reaches moviegoers under the age of 34. That’s important, since millennial consumers have been getting out of the habit of heading to theaters.

“From the time you think about going to a movie to the time you take your seat, we want to put everything in one tidy package,” says Bakal.

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