Ticket Wars

In Focus

Film fans have a choice when they go out to the movies, and that choice is usually dictated by content, the location of a theatre and its amenities. More and more today, that choice is also driven by the “value proposition”—the cost and the perks.

Moviegoers coping with rising costs, stagnant wages, and bills and loans to pay were delighted when the MoviePass deal came around. The company lured three million subscribers after cutting its movie-a-day monthly plan to less than $10. But the undercapitalized MoviePass was a victim of its own success and a higher-than-expected demand for its offer.

MoviePass has likely forever changed the traditional ticket model. Major circuits are now jumping into the fray with their own models to offer real value to the customer.

Unfortunately for MoviePass, it might not be around long enough to enjoy the rewards of the sea change it inspired. Cinemark, Regal, Alamo Drafthouse and AMC have begun their own programs, and as in many businesses, the pioneers are not always the last ones standing.

The goal of the newly announced program at AMC is to offset declining attendance. The AMC Stubs “A-List” rewards guests with up to three movies per week along with benefits of AMC Stubs Premiere—all for $19.95 a month. Where it distinguishes itself from MoviePass is that AMC members can enjoy any available showtime at any AMC location including all formats like IMAX, Dolby Cinema and RealD 3D. Members can also book tickets weeks ahead and get free upgrades on soda and popcorn, and express service at the box service and concession stand. MoviePass cannot compete with those perks.

But AMC faces challenges. Will letting customers see three movies a week and reserve seats far in advance be enough to make their program viable? AMC believes that it will take a hit of $10-15 million over the next two quarters, but their hope is that a rise in visits will spur higher concession sales and offset any losses at the box office.

Consumers today are more price-conscious, and unique loyalty programs will be a major part of our industry going forward. Only time will tell how this will play out, but every circuit wants customers to come to their theatres, buy their soda and popcorn and book their tickets directly from them. It's quite obvious that theatres want to control their own destiny.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Just as the ticket wars are changing how business is done in exhibition, the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T for $85.4 billion will result in revolutionary changes to the studio model now that the merger has been approved by the Justice Department .

The decision by the Justice Department has led to Disney upping its bid for the purchase of 21st Century Fox to $71.3 billion, which is a huge increase from the company's original $52.4 billion deal. Regardless of whether it's Disney or Comcast that wins the contest for Fox, it seems reasonable that the acquisition will drastically change the media landscape.

Control of Fox by either of these two media giants will bring a huge chunk of the entertainment industry to the winner. Up for grabs are Fox TV, Fox Pictures, Fox Searchlight and Fox 2000 film production studios. The massive media portfolio of Disney combined with Fox or Comcast will most probably result in the winner controlling more than 40 percent of box office. That will also mean fewer movies in the marketplace and only five major studios existing.

The real question is how other media companies are going to respond. Within the next five years, it’s very possible that only four major studios will survive. The ramifications are very complex.

The thought of no more Fox, Sony or Paramount (also likely to be taken over) is tough to swallow. But looking from the other perspective, is this what is necessary to compete with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Google?

A Shameful Policy

Just when we thought the current administration had hit its lowest point, we witnessed the profoundly immoral policy of separating immigrant children from their families. This act by the Trump team was reprehensible and brought back memories of the Japanese internment during World War II.

With nearly 3,000 children transported across the U.S., the chance of ever uniting these children with their families seems impossible. This is truly a very sad and low point for the United States.

It's embarrassing to be an American today and to still know we have at least two more years with President Trump in office.