In Hollywood, Everything Gets a Reboot — Even MoviePass

In Hollywood, Everything Gets a Reboot — Even MoviePass

The launch press conference for MoviePass 2.0 got off to an uncharacteristically rough start. After a high-energy introductory montage of upcoming film trailers, Stacy Spikes, the company’s founder and new owner, took the stage despite some audio troubles, eventually switching to a handheld mic. Whatever you think of the firm’s earlier woes, Spikes has learned to laugh at himself (a little), rapidly clicking into a slide deck behind him with an image of the Hindenburg as a kind of shorthand for how things had previously played out.

The entrepreneur spent the first several minutes of the Lincoln Center event delving into some of the company’s problems. With a giggle, he added, “First, we’re going to talk about basically what happened.” The slide transitioned to an image of Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass, and Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson, smiling and holding up MoviePass cards. Spikes waved away what appeared to be jeers from the appreciative audience. He stated, “A lot of people lost money, a lot of people lost trust.” “There were many people who were disappointed and wounded, and I was one of them.” Helios & Matheson filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy less than three years after acquiring MoviePass, effectively killing the firm.

Spikes claims that a documentary crew shooting a film about the company’s undoubtedly remarkable ascent and demise notified him that MoviePass was back on the market, in a brilliantly 2022 entrepreneurial twist. A bankruptcy court accepted the purchase 21 days after the bid was submitted. We met with Spikes shortly after the news broke last November, and he gave us a harsh appraisal of the app’s technical issues: That wasn’t a technicality because it was done on purpose. The MoviePass app functioned perfectly when I was CEO. It worked fine. The ease with which the service was provided was really appreciated. I can stroll up to any theater and go wherever I choose.

Fandango and Movie Tickets combined have a wider footprint than we did. You could use MoviePass at any theater, with the exception of drive-ins and cash-only locations. As a result, the ease of use and simplicity were ideal. We put in a lot of time and effort to get that correct. Everything that happened after that was premeditated. That wasn’t a technological problem. It wasn’t technical issues that caused them to pull AMC Theaters or that your app wasn’t fully functional.

Those old scars aren’t going to heal overnight, but today’s event was about the form MoviePass 2.0 will take when it releases this summer (as planned). During the relaunch, Spikes also put out a call for equity crowdfunding. Those interested in investing can sign up on the service’s website. You can get a lifetime membership if you spend enough money. The original version was, in some ways, a victim of its own popularity, growing at an unsustainable rate. Spikes’ presentation aimed to strike a balance between conservative expansion plans and a “moonshot” goal of facilitating 30% of all theatrical purchases by 2030.

A credit system is at the heart of the new service, which MoviePass claims is aided by underlying web3 technology (without laying out too many details on that front). Films will cost different amounts of credits depending on a variety of factors, such as whether you choose to see a film on a Tuesday afternoon or a Friday night, for example. Credits will be redeemed on a monthly basis and can be swapped. Users can also add more credits to their account to bring a buddy. It’s referred to as “virtual cash” by MoviePass. It’s one that customers may earn by watching advertising on Preshow, a company launched by Spikes. In 2019, Anthony described a demo of the feature as follows:

Last week, Spikes showed me how to use this feature by unlocking the PreShow app with his face. He was provided with a package of video commercials that were specifically selected to run with that movie once he’d chosen it, and the ads would stop playing if he glanced away from the screen or went too far away from his phone. (It appears that the sensitivity can be adjusted based on user feedback.) 

The image of an ad that stops playing when a viewer looks away is startling, and it’s already elicited dystopian parallels. But, if we’re being honest, it’s also probably the way ad monetization will go in the future. Aside from that, the new MoviePass is also accepting signups for theaters to become partners with the program. According to the report, a number of people are currently on board, including Angelika from New York.