July 04, 2011

MoviePass and the Future of Monthly Movie Passes

This past week saw the exciting announcement of the test-launch of MoviePass, a membership service which allowed you, for $50 per month, to see as many movies as you want. Like Netflix, but at the movie theaters. And aimed at a very, very small segment of the population that goes to the theater more than twice a week - not quite as obvious a deal as Netflix... With MoviePass, you can see up to one movie per day, you can see each movie only once, you reserve tickets with a convenient smartphone app... it sounded promising, but as soon as anyone finished doing the math on whether the $50 was worth it, news came that MoviePass didn't run the idea by any of the movie chains. An embarrassing turn of events that quickly put an end to the venture (although MoviePass claims it will be back).

Services like MoviePass have existed and succeeded quite a while in Europe. And at a lower price than MoviePass, even. But the main difference is that these programs are offered by the theater chains themselves. No daily limits, no limit on how many times you can see a movie... the theaters benefit from increased concession sales, and somehow they've been able to make it work with the movie studios.

Would it work in the US? Definitely, but only if offered by the chains themselves. The US movie theater world is more chain-oriented than Europe, making a monthly pass even more viable here. But how many people would want to see more than two movies a week? And how many realize that they're spending upwards of $50? Probably not enough for a Regal, AMC, Carmike, Landmark, or any other chain to find it worthwhile to introduce an unlimited pass.

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