MoviePass parent to raise $1.2 billion in bid to keep company growing

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Despite plenty of speculation to the contrary, MoviePass isn't going away anytime soon and, in fact, parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics filed on Monday to raise $1.2 billion to make sure the subscription service that famously sells 30 tickets for the price of one thrives for years to come.

The company filed a shelf registration that will offer institutional investors equity and debt, and Helios and Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth tells The Hollywood Reporter that he'll likely access the $1.2 billion over the course of a year or two.

A portion of the windfall will be used to make acquisitions, and Farnsworth says he is in final negotiations on a few already, though he declines to name the companies he will purchase.

If Helios and Matheson is successful in gaining access to such a large sum of money when the company sports only a $69 million market capitalization on Wall Street, it will represent a huge vote of confidence for its MoviePass asset.

Farnsworth, in fact, has been down this road before, having raised $400 million last year, also several times what the company's market cap was at the time.

"They've been predicting our demise for eight months and we're still standing," says Farnsworth. "Now we'll have a big war chest behind us."

MoviePass says it may reverse-split its stock both in order to raise money more easily and to make sure its shares are not delisted from Nasdaq, given they trade at less than a buck apiece, which is under Nasdaq's listing threshold.

Farnsworth says MoviePass will have 5 million subscribers by year's end and will generate $600 million in annual revenue. Doubters say MoviePass is basically selling dollar bills for 50 cents apiece, though Farnsworth recalls that the same was once said of Amazon.com.

"I was at a conference with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in around 1999 when a headline referred to the company as 'Amazon.bomb.' Well, look who's laughing now," says Farnsworth.

MoviePass intends to make a profit by marketing films and other items, selling data and striking concession and ticketing relationships with theater chains that crave the traffic the service can generate—as it has been known to drive as much as 50 percent of the box office on certain titles, especially smaller ones where subscribers might otherwise balk at buying a full-price ticket.

MoviePass faces some new competition from AMC, as the nation's largest movie exhibitor launched its own service where subscribers get three movies tickets a week for $20 a month, but Farnsworth says that MoviePass has seen a 25 percent surge in new subs since then, probably because every news article noted that MoviePass was much cheaper—$10 a month for a ticket per day.

Farnsworth also says much of the $1.2 billion will go to its production company, MoviePass Films, as well as its film investment asset, MoviePass Ventures, which has thrown money behind American Animals and Gotti thus far.

"This is a game changer," says Farnsworth. "Now they know that we are not going away."—The Hollywood Reporter