I love business. Especially small business. And I love to see ideas grow from a couple of people at a kitchen table, to something that goes viral. And I especially love seeing one type of business plan applied to something that looks completely different (but actually isn’t.) That’s MoviePass.
MoviePass is a month-to-month membership site that (now,) lets you watch an ‘unlimited’ number of movies in the movie theater for the low monthly price of… $9.95. Yes – less than the price of a single ticket. With e-ticketing, or a physical card, you can go to a surprising number of theater chains to see any standard movie (standard means no 3D, no IMAX, no D-BOX, etc.) So, what’s the catch? Read on… But for the moment, look at MoviePass as being basically the same idea as Netflix or a monthly membership to Planet Fitness.
HOW is it the same as a gym membership or a streaming video service? I’m sure there’s a technical, economics term for it, but in regular words – people are more likely to pay for it and not use it, than those who pay for it and over-use it. At $10 per month, most people don’t think twice about that “small” amount of money being automatically charged to their credit card. Especially since the average cable bill in the US pays over $100 per month. Add on to that, Netflix at $10/mnth, Hulu at $8/mnth, and anywhere from $20 to $150 per month on a ‘subscription boxes‘, plus the daily Starbucks charges. Most people just don’t think about such a “small” amount of money for something they thought was a good idea one day – but often forget about the next. And just like that gym membership people sign up for but don’t use, they keep charging your card each month until you cancel it. Brilliant! Charging you for a service that you rarely use. That’s money in the bank – for the business.
Sure, there are people like me who will get every penny’s worth of using MoviePass, but I’m unusual. And just like how Expedia and Kayak and Orbitz and Travelocity and Priceline work, I’m pretty sure that MoviePass is just buying “tickets” in bulk, at a good discount from these chains around the Country, then letting you grab the seats (or tickets) if there’s any left for that movie. It seems to have worked for the travel companies. And there’s lots of hotel rooms and airline seats that get purchased but never sold, because the those online sites have done the detailed math to figure out how to charge just the right amount to make a good profit.
And, along with copying a couple of good business plans, MoviePass is also ‘assured’ cooperation from the theater chains, because the movie theaters are losing a lot of money to home entertainment systems (and lots of awful movies getting made!) As long as the box office sales are down, theaters will happily sell those otherwise empty seats to MoviePass. I’m just wondering how long before Priceline and Orbitz ‘copy & paste’ their algorithms for plane tickets, to the movie theater tickets and cash in there too – or, until people start dropping MoviePass because they only have “3 tickets” for ‘that’ movie at ‘that’ time. When subscribers figure out that they aren’t getting their moneys worth because there’s no inventory, even though they’re paying the monthly fee, they’ll be searching for “how to cancel my account.”
Well, until that happens, I’ll give them $10/mnth and take advantage of a good, ‘new’ idea. Let’s just hope it’s not as difficult and frustrating to cancel MoviePass, as it is to cancel your cable subscription.
UPDATE – November 1, 2017
Okay, it took 30 days to get my card. But, considering that they got SLAMMED, that’s cool.
And I’ve now used it 4 times… and each time it was flawless. When I parked – but before I get out of the car – I “check in” on the mobile app. It says I have 30 minutes to make the purchase. I get to the window and tell them which movie and I swipe my “MoviePass MasterCard”; the charge goes through, and I get my ticket. (I even get the ‘loyalty points’ when they scan my loyalty app!)
I’m going to take an updated guess to what I wrote above though. Now, I’m thinking they are NOT buying seats in every theater – I think it’s just a numbers game. I think MoviePass has figured out how to ‘put money in my account’ – that is, my ‘MoviePass MasterCard” – to cover the cost of a standard movie at the theater I’m going to. And since I have to ‘check in’ to that theater/movie, they know how much the ‘standard’ ticket costs.
I think the ‘numbers game’ they are playing is just like I said above… like a gym membership. While *I* may use it 2-4 times a month, I think they’re betting that a large percentage of people will sign up and only use it once a month… or less… which leaves the money ‘in the bank’.
So, I’m pretty sure that I could ‘check in’ to ANY movie in the app and pay for it with the card, since the theater doesn’t send movie details in the credit card transaction.
I’d still say this is a worthwhile membership (while it lasts.) If you use it just ONE TIME per month, you’ve already saved money (at least for movies in LA, since standard tickets are $12-$16 each.)