MoviePass' 'Thirty for One' Offer

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In Focus

Last month, MoviePass drastically reduced its price from $50 to just $9.95, giving users essentially 30 movie tickets for the price of one each month. Over the years that MoviePass has existed, it had attracted only about 20,000 subscribers at the $50-a-month rate. With the price down to under $10, in just a matter of days the number of subscribers jumped to 150,000.

MoviePass pays nearly full price for the movie tickets its subscribers use. This can result in a possible loss of $300 a month under the new rate plan. MoviePass hopes to make up the shortfall by selling analytical data and through marketing and concession partnerships.

The real question is whether this business plan is sustainable. This editor doesn’t think it is, and when the need arises to raise the cost back to $19.95 or $24.95, will John Q. Public continue to support the program?

This editor liked the plan initially, because box office this summer was down 15 percent and anything that enables more frequent moviegoing has to be good for the industry.

AMC has been the most vocal opponent of MoviePass, claiming the reselling of movie tickets at this price level is not in the best interest of moviegoing, movie theatres and movie studios. AMC is conferring with its attorneys to determine if or how the circuit can prevent a subscription program like this from being used at AMC theatres.

In AMC's view, the new price level is unsustainable and only sets up consumers for ultimate disappointment down the road if or when the product can no longer be fulfilled. AMC also counters that promising unlimited first-run movie content at a price below $10 per month over time will not provide sufficient revenue to operate quality theatres, nor will it produce enough income to provide filmmakers with sufficient incentive to make great movies. It will be interesting to see where the MoviePass experiment goes from here.

It's About Time

When you spy the Bjarke Ingels West 57th Street Court Scraper from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, it looks like a boat sailing through the sky of New York City. What you cannot see is the Landmark at 57 West, the first movie theatre to open in a decade in Midtown Manhattan.

This eight-screen theatre will have a private bar that will be called JD's Place, along with design elements like a video wall and a special light display. The theatre will be equipped with plush leather recliners, plenty of concessions, and laser projection screens. The management company hopes the new theatre will appeal to film aficionados and neighborhood moviegoers alike.

It's about time a new movie theatre in the Midtown area has appeared, to keep up with the tremendous growth in cinema around the country. Congratulations to Mark Cuban and Ted Mundorff for making this a reality.

Tracking New Design Trends

The October issue of Film Journal International includes three articles that are very pertinent to the motion picture theatrical industry. Pertinent because they gives keen insight into design and construction in the modern multiplex as well as a way to conserve energy.

One article addresses the disappearance of the ticket booth. Our writer Bob Gibbons interviews two exhibitors and two architects to detail new ticket-purchase options for moviegoers, as cinemas take another step into the future. Among the comments:

“I think the box-office-less approach can work in big markets and small, and in theatres of different sizes.”

“Spur-of-the-moment moviegoing is becoming a thing of the past. There are fewer and fewer people relying on buying their ticket when they get to the theatre.”

“Most of our customers buy their tickets at the concession counter. The advantage to the customer is the single transaction point in the theatre, the single line.”

I see lots of positives from eliminating the box office. We’re consolidating all the cash in one location. We’re reducing the number of transactions per customer from two—for tickets and concessions—to one, so theoretically, that will speed things up.”

“When the ticket booth is eliminated, there’s more space available to make the whole lobby experience better, the exhibitor’s labor costs can be reduced by combining jobs and eliminating redundancy, and customers spend less time doing what they find painful to do—standing in line waiting to buy tickets.” 

Next, Jack Muffoletto of TK Architects looks at hot topics that are impacting the cinema business in 2017, including luxury seating, self-service, gourmet foods and beverages and other amenities that create compelling reasons to go to the movies. Among his observations:

“Design must provide a destination that is not contrived and creates a desire to stay. How does the design increase the property value? How does the finished product differentiate one from the competition and other threats?”

“Spend money where the guest sees it: countertops, bars, concessions, entries, tables, toilet rooms, etc.—not a chandelier up high or a nondescript background.”

“Research indicates that Millennials and Centennials seek social-bonding experiences. They are informed consumers that expect engagement and participation.”

“Guests want more amenities. VIP is one of those value concepts, but it needs to be more than just high-end, bespoke design.... It has to be an immersive experience like no other…”

Our final article covers solar energy and revisits a small theatre owner we interviewed six years ago who installed solar panels at the time in three of his theatres. Some of the conclusions he made after carefully examining his investment include:

“Solar isn’t cheap to purchase and install, and you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.”

“The cost of solar has gone down, and the incentives…are still there. When we started, solar was selling for [around] eight dollars a watt. Now it’s three dollars and fifty cents a watt. There’s been a dramatic drop in just six years.”

“The opportunity to decrease our carbon footprint and save money over the long term was in stride with our mission.”

We hope you enjoy these informative reports.