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Stacy Spikes
Cofounder and CEO , MoviePass

Lessons Learned: How to Update an Outdated Industry

Can the Movie Theater Be Saved? While Hollywood sticks with the same old ideas—bigger, pricier blockbusters—these outsiders are making real changes.

Stacy Spikes

Cofounder and CEO , MoviePass

The former Miramax executive's subscription service works at almost any movie theater. For $35 a month, users can see one movie a day—any movie, at any time.

The Subscriber

1. Remake the model

"'Raise prices 5% every year' can't be the future. Millennials consume media in subscriptions— Netflix, Hulu—and we need to take that seriously. It's not that disruptive. We could put AMC or Regal Crown memberships right into our app and become an extension of those programs. We build loyalty."

2. Fit the right mold

"Our system works within the theaters' Subscribers select the movie and showtime on our app, which unlocks a debit card to purchase the ticket. MoviePass pays the theater the full price, and we sell in-app advertising. The strategy has helped us reach roughly 4,500 theaters across every state."

3. Find hidden benefits

"Theaters are open all day but are only crowded for a fraction of that. In a survey last year, we increased theater traffic 64%, users consumed more concessions, and they doubled their visits at off-peak times. Basically, we helped theaters make more money during the times they're already open."

4. Be an easy partner

"When we talk to major theater chains, we stress our robust customer service. That isn't just for our own customers; that's so a user's poor experience goes directly to us and nobody blames the theater. That really helps the theater see us as a friend, not a potential liability."

Fast Talk: Can the Movie Theater Be Saved?

[Photo by Kevin Trageser]

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  • smile from The Lower East Side

    The photo used in this article was taken in front of The Sunshine Cinema on The Lower East Side, part of Mark Cuban's Landmark Cinema chain, and THEY DON'T ACCEPT MOVIEPASS. At all. Did anyone do any due diligence for this piece whatsoever? When did Fast Company start filling out their pages with puff pieces on dishonest and unethical businesses? Major fail — smile

  • kingofswing3000

    People complaining about not being able to see 1 movie a day because of the new clock just don't know how to work the Pass. Even with the clock I can see a movie a day if I wanted (but seriously, how many people not living in their parent's basement have that time?) AND I can see 3D movies (for a nominal fee). No biggie. And seeing 3+ movies a week which is my average is way more than doable even with the clock rules, and still more than enough reason to spend about $1 a day(!!) on a great product and service. I mean, I get at least $120 worth of movies a month for $35. And theaters get more business from me and the people I tell to go see a movie I just saw. And MoviePass gets my business. Everyones a winner. Stop whining. Yeesh.

  • smile from The Lower East Side

    If MoviePass is still such a great deal after the changes they made, they why can't they be upfront about those changes and update their marketing to truly reflect what they are offering? Because it's easier to lie to people to get their business. If I advertise a Porsche for sale, someone pays me for it, and then they show up and I give them a Volkswagen, is that acceptable? It's still a car, Porsche is owned by VW, so what's the big deal? It's misrepresentation and bait & switch, and it's also illegal, that's what the big deal is.

    As far as still being able to see 1 movie a day with the Countdown Clock, that's your opinion, I already proved that's not true here:

    If you feel like "a winner" letting a business take advantage of your willingness to not get what you paid for, there's no reason for you to tell everyone with an opinion contrary to yours to "stop whining." If you truly feel like a "winner" in this situation, good for you, but everyone here has a right to express their thoughts just like you. There's no reason to get personal with anyone commenting here, as no one was critical of you, they criticized MoviePass. Unless you have some professional or personal connection with MoviePass, I don't see how you can take any of these comments personally and respond with such aggressive vitriol.

    As for your arrogant presumption that only people "living in their parent's basement" have enough free time to see a movie a day, I happen to know several retirees living off of their pension, as well as Marines who fought bravely for America and now live off their military pension and/or disability; none of these people live in their parent's basement, and none of them should have to pay money for something and not get what's advertised in return.

    At the end of the day, MoviePass is not a charity, they are a business. They are not offering their service out of the kindness of their hearts, they are offering it in exchange for a monetary fee. As such, they have a responsibility to hold up their end of the deal. If they choose not to do so, I can choose not to give them my business any longer (I've already ended my membership), and I can also advise others not give them business as well (which I have been and will continue to do until MoviePass shows they are an ethically run business).

    Feel free to respond as you like, but remember, just because you have to last word in a discussion, it doesn't make you right — smile

    PS If anyone wants to read detailed, fair and balanced coverage on my experience using MoviePass for a year, you can check out my blog. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

  • John Fink

    I'm a defender of MoviePass and can't quite understand the criticisms. Yes the countdown clock has forced me to change my movie-going habits a little but considering the tremendous value the program offers it's by no means a deal breaker because - quite honestly - what are the alternatives? Only two chains I know of have even tried the "unlimited" model, one discontinued it after a year, the other charges more than MoviePass and they have a tiny footprint. I suppose if you only have one weekend a month to cram in your moviegoing it's obnoxious. With that said I wish MoviePass would offer a higher tier of service - I would pay $10-20 more a month to get rid of the countdown clock and premium experiences.

    The customer service isn't always exactly perfect, especially when you're having a problem checking in right at showtime and they don't answer but in those cases they've been able to refund the purchase price (if you don't call in, they won't). Granted I've thrown them some curve balls - the old work around if you arrived to see an indie and it wasn't showing up on the app was that they'd book you a ticket for "Forrest Gump". Then, Cinemark's classics series showed Forrest Gump and the app wouldn't let me book a ticket because I had seen it already - I called in and the guy on the other line laughed and said "I knew this would happen eventually" and manually booked me the ticket. The customer service folks are quite helpful even if at times the system is a tad problematic (sometimes theaters that are often cheaper than others in a market don't show up for one reason or another). The program is still in Beta technically - but I do hope cinemas embrace it and encourage MoviePass customers to come with incentives of their own. Their is a whole world of possibilities for this app to explore and monazite while enhancing the movie-going experience and turning this into a must have. I hope they figure some of these things out - but still, the value the program offers is unbeatable.

  • User P

    You can't understand the critisisms? I can't understand how someone can be content with a company trying to take them for a fool.

    I agree with a lot of what you said , but you're missing the point. Moviepass maliciously tried to fool their customers into thinking this new bullshit clock was a feature -- WHEN IT WAS A CLEAR RESTRICTION. Had they been forthcoming and admitted it wasn't a sustainable business model and that they needed to revise their policies I, like most others, would of understood. Now, they are getting the PR nightmare they deserve for attempting to take their customers as fools.

    I hope that asshole Spikes reads this -- you're a coward. Do the right thing and release a statement.

  • brucklin

    I agree with all of these comments. Fast Company, you guys should have done some due diligence before printing this article as there are several flat out LIES - mainly the "any movie at any time" line. Its more than misleading, its a lie. I can only see one movie every 24 hours due to the institution of the "new and exciting" Countdown Clock which ends up being one movie every other day.

    Additionally, the quote regarding "robust customer service" is actually a joke. I've had to call customer service numerous times where either I've been forced to wait on hold for 20 minutes or just nobody answers. I can't even tell you how many movies I've had to pay for with my credit card rather than my Moviepass because there was some issue with the app where I couldn't check in. Let alone after they instituted the Countdown Clock, I sent probably 5 emails and didn't get a single response (and I know its the same for all of my friends).

    I know it sounds new and exciting and reads really well but in reality this becoming a total scam.

  • The Shame-Spear of Hurt

    Yeah, just want to chime in so people reading this who haven't joined MoviePass know that "any movie, at any time" is a flat-out lie. That used to be true (with the exception of 3D films), but no longer. They installed a brand new "feature" called the 24-Hour Countdown Clock. There used to be no waiting period and MoviePass has been publicly COMPLETELY SILENT on the issue. Don't buy MoviePass.

  • Jason

    Totally agree with everyone else. The "one movie a day" line is misleading. When I signed up it was one movie a day and I loved it. Within the first few months I had seen over 25 movies. It was super convenient. If I had some free time I just went to the theater and caught a movie. I was on track to see more movies in a year than I had seen in the past two (close to 200). Unfortunately that came to a halt because of this 24 hour clock. It removes all the convenience that I loved about MoviePass. I can't go to the movies anytime I want on any given day. I always have to take in to consideration how long ago I saw a movie.

    So if on a Friday I caught a late movie then I can't see another movie on Saturday until it's late again. Well what if I don't have time in the evening, but I do in the morning. Sorry because MoviePass just denied me that opportunity.

    The convenience of this service in my opinion took a huge hit along with the appeal. Unfortunately they locked me in to a year long contract for a service I don't totally agree with anymore. I went from a MoviePass cheerleader to disgruntled customer because of one move that didn't take the customer in mind. I've participated in several surveys for them and never was this 24 hour limitation asked of me.

    I don't want my contract to be terminated early. I just want the service back to the way it was before. I want what I was promised. Hopefully someone from MoviePass reads this and takes some kind of action. Especially since I'm not the only one who is complaining. I hope they don't ignore the issue and complaints. Movie theaters are failing because they ignore their patrons. Don't make the same mistake.

  • gp1086

    You cannot see one movie a day anymore with the inclusion of the Countdown Clock (unless you are able to find a new movie playing at the same exact time each day, which is basically impossible to do).

    The CEO should know this given that he signed the email announcing the inclusion of the Countdown Clock, which was deceitfully marketed as an exciting new feature, even though it limited the service for customers.

    What was such a good company before lost a lot of goodwill with its customers by the way they've handled themselves recently. I used to champion for MoviePass to family / friends, getting 8 people to sign up. Will not be doing this anymore.

  • gp1086

    Please explain how it works to see a movie every day with the clock, assuming it's not the same time.

  • Jack Eisman

    Good list of innovations happening for moviegoing, but..."can the movie theater be saved"?? Did someone say it needs saving? 225 million people went to the movies last year- half go every month. How many subscribers does Netflix have again?

  • Kymberlie R. McGuire

    Except the "for $35 a month, users can see one movie a day--any movie, at any time" line is a lie. With the institution of their 24 hour clock, it means that you can only see a movie once 24 hours passes on the movie's start time.

    For instance: If you see a movie at 7:30 on Tuesday, you can't see another movie until 7:30 on Wednesday. The theater I go to almost exclusively (Alamo Drafthouse) shows their specialty, one showing and one showing only movies almost always at 7:30. This means that I basically can't go to two days of specialty programming in a row without being late to the movie, provided it hasn't sold out.

    I'm incredibly angry over this change and they need to be truthful that movie watching is no longer unlimited and you can see any movie at any time. You clearly cannot.