Taggart’s Take: Subscription Service May Be Answer to Declining Movie Ticket Sales


Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS

MoviePass is accepted at most major cinema chains and currently offers customers the chance to view one movie each day for as little as $6.95 per month.

Movie theaters and film studios have fought the tide of declining ticket sales for years thanks to the onslaught of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon that keep movie viewers, especially college students, at home. On other fronts, the film industry competes with inexpensive DVD rental services like Redbox and continues to wage war against video piracy – both of which further hurt ticket sales.

However, in August, one company made an announcement that is sure to drive movie-goers back into theaters. MoviePass, a subscriber-based service that launched in 2011 now run by Netflix co-founder and former Redbox president Mitch Lowe, sent shock waves across the film industry when it announced that after experimenting with different price structures, it lowered its unlimited movie-going service to $9.95 a month. Currently, the company is running a limited-time offer that drops the rate to $6.95 a month with the purchase of a yearlong subscription.

Once word of the announcement spread, thousands of people rushed to sign up crashing both the company’s website and mobile app. The company grew from 20,000 subscribers at the beginning of the year to roughly 600,000 by the middle of October.

So, what is MoviePass and how does it work? Well, taking cues from Netflix, the subscription service allows consumers to view one movie in a 24-hour period at any theater except ArcLight and Landmark theaters.

Once a consumer signs up for the service, the subscriber downloads the app and waits to receive the Moviepass card in the mail. When the card arrives, the subscriber goes into the app, selects a theater, a movie, and showtime, and then hits the “check-in” button. After check-in, the consumer picks up the ticket and pays using the MoviePass swipe card.

However, the service has some drawbacks. To check in, the patron must be physically present at the movie theater, and tickets cannot be purchased in advance, only on the day of attendance. Also, 3D and IMAX screenings are excluded.

In actuality, the advantages of the service greatly outweigh the disadvantages. In addition to the low subscription price and access to almost every major theater chain in the country, MoviePass has no blackout dates. A subscriber can watch a film every day for a month for the cost of a single movie ticket.

Since the inception of Netflix, film lovers have waited for a similar low-cost service that doesn’t mean sacrificing the movie-going experience, while theater owners needed a way to bring back patrons lost to streaming services. MoviePass may just be the answer for both.

But that’s just my take, what’s yours?