You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How MoviePass’s Former Chairman Plans to Save the Floundering Company

Ted Farnsworth still believes that MoviePass, the high-flying subscription service that crashed to Earth in spectacular fashion, can soar again. The former head of Helios and Matheson Analytics, the data company that bought MoviePass in 2017 and turned it into a phenomenon by allowing customers to see a movie per day for $9.99 a month, has submitted a bid to buy back the shuttered company.

“We made the company a household name in two years and we disrupted the industry,” Farnsworth said in an interview with Variety. “We put hundreds of millions of dollars into the company, and I don’t want to just cut our losses.”

He added, “It’s something that we can reshape and rebuild. It will take time, but I think we can revitalize the whole brand.”

At its height, MoviePass attracted some 3 million subscribers, but its low prices left it struggling to make money. It experimented with different pricing models and attempted a relaunch, but the company was plagued by a plunging stock price, data breaches, and technological problems. MoviePass lost tens of millions of dollars a month, and Helios and Matheson’s net loss more than doubled in 2018 to $329.3 million, according to its most recent financial filing. Last Friday, the company announced it was shutting down and would explore a sale.

Even though the math seemingly never worked, Farnsworth insists that the $9.95 pricing wasn’t the company’s big problem. It was fraud on the part of its subscribers, who used the app to buy tickets that they later resold or who shared their subscription with friends and family members, according to the exec.

Popular on Variety

“I don’t think the pricing was wrong,” he said. “We would have been fine if people hadn’t gamed the system, shared passwords, and engaged in consumer fraud.”

Farnsworth has stepped down as the chairman of Helios and Matheson while the board weighs his bid. He wouldn’t reveal how much he was bidding, nor would he disclose his investment group, citing nondisclosure agreements. He was blunt, however, when asked why he was the right person to revitalize MoviePass after leading the company into insolvency.

“Maybe I’m not the right one to revive it, but I’m willing to put in more money,” said Farnsworth. “I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t believe in it.”

If Farnsworth does succeed in relaunching MoviePass, he faces increased competition. Since MoviePass became a phenomenon, other theater chains have followed suit. AMC, Regal, and Cinemark are just a few of the exhibition chains that have unveiled their own subscription services in recent months.

“There’s an opportunity,” said Farnsworth. “They’re coming in with higher price models, and I don’t think people want to have to use an AMC card here or a Regal card there. They want one subscription and the freedom to go to any theater that they choose.”

Farnsworth said that if he is successful he will invest in improving the technology and will hire people to help relaunch the brand.

“We were a lot like Uber and what it did to the taxis,” said Farnsworth. “They broke the system even as they were losing billions. Our institutional investors, they see the potential for what we can do. We just ran out of time and capital along the way. But an investment like this, by its very nature, holds the potential to win and win big.”

Farnsworth is right. Uber did revolutionize the transportation industry, but, like MoviePass, it has failed to establish a sustainable business model. Last quarter, the company reported $5 billion in losses and it is losing money at a rate of $1 billion a month.

MoviePass is a disruptor, but it’s unclear if it can evolve into a viable business regardless of who wins the bid.

More Film

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]


    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

  • Ron Leibman, Jessica Walter'Mary Stuart' Play

    Ron Leibman, Tony-Winning Actor Known for 'Angels in America' and 'Friends,' Dies at 82

    Ron Leibman, an Emmy-winning actor who garnered a Tony for his work in Broadway’s “Angels in America” and played the father of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green on “Friends,” died on Friday. He was 82. Robert Attermann, CEO of Abrams Artists Agency, confirmed the news to Variety. No further details were immediately available. Leibman, a native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content