With an image of a phoenix emblazoned on a screen behind him, Stacy Spikes, the founder of MoviePass, announced on Thursday that the controversial and defunct service will relaunch this summer. Spikes, a former film marketing executive and producer, who founded the ticketing service in 2011 before getting pushed out of the company after it was acquired by analytics firm Helios and Matheson in 2018, said that MoviePass is being reimagined as a cooperative. It will also use virtual currency and tiered pricing plans.
“We want to rebuild MoviePass as a company that’s built by its fanbase,” Spikes said in a presentation at New York City’s Lincoln Center. Outfitted in a black turtleneck and offering up a detailed slideshow of what he envisions for MoviePass’s next iteration, Spikes appeared to be borrowing couture and stagecraft from one of Steve Jobs’ Apple presentations.
But there were still many questions that were left unanswered. Namely, Spikes did not give pricing information for the various plans that MoviePass will begin offering in just a few short months.
Spikes did share that MoviePass will employ a credit system, where credits will roll over month to month. Those credits can also be traded or shared with other people. Spikes also suggested that users can watch ads in order to earn more credits. His statement that a user’s phone camera could track eyeballs to make sure the user is actually watching the ad drew immediate comment on Twitter.
It’s been a long and rocky road to arrive at this point. After toiling in obscurity for years, MoviePass became a household name in 2017 with its too-good-to-be-true (at least if you want to remain solvent) $9.95 monthly subscription for one movie per day. That was less than the cost of a single movie ticket, but MoviePass made vague claims that somehow the math would work out after it sold data to studios and other companies. But even as the company attracted scores of customers, its losses kept mounting.
In a last-ditch effort to prevent bankruptcy, MoviePass in 2018 rolled out a refashioned “unlimited” option for $14.95 per month offering one movie daily with restrictions. In September 2019, MoviePass notified subscribers that it would be shutting down indefinitely and in January 2020, MoviePass’ parent Helios and Matheson Analytics filed for Chapter 7 liquidation.
“A lot of people lost money, a lot of people lost trust,” Spikes said. “There were a lot of people who were hurt and disappointed, and I was one of the people who was hurt and disappointed.”
But MoviePass did successfully reshape the theatrical landscape. It served as a disruptive force, inspiring theater chains such as AMC and Regal to launch their own subscription services. Spikes acknowledged that the competitive scene has been dramatically altered since he first came up with the idea for MoviePass, but he thinks there’s room for a service that isn’t aligned with one particular chain.
“If it benefits one theater chain it’s really a loyalty program,” Spikes said. “Our goal is to create a marketplace where all theaters, all movies, all titles, all parts of the market benefit.”
Spikes spoke personally about his experience at the company he was ousted from and took a few not-so-veiled shots at Mitch Lowe, the former Netflix executive who replaced him as MoviePass CEO, and Ted Farnsworth, the Helios and Matheson owner who bought the company. At one point, Spikes shared a slide of Lowe and Farnsworth gripping each other and brandishing MoviePass cards in front of a Times Square AMC — a photo that seems decidedly less celebratory in light of the company’s implosion.
But he also used his time on stage to point to the lack of opportunities for Black entrepreneurs. He noted that women and people of color do not have the same access to capital as white business owners.
“I want to make sure that my presence is saying to a little Brown boy or a little Black girl out there that you too can stand here if you fight for your dreams,” Spikes said.
Spikes previously told Insider that his bid for the MoviePass assets was less than $250,000, which was the original minimum set by the bankruptcy trustee. MoviePass’ customer data was not part of the sale.
MoviePass is relaunching as the cinema business has been hit hard by the pandemic. Domestic ticket sales in 2021 hit $4.4 billion, a 91% increase from 2020 when many cinemas were shuttered due to COVID. However, that’s still a 61% drop from 2019, the last normal period at the box office. Spikes argued that services like MoviePass can help the industry rebound by encouraging people to not only watch blockbusters like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” but also check out indie fare like “Drive My Car.”
“It bugs me how people talk about the end of the movie industry,” Spikes said. “It’s the greatest thing on Earth.”