If you haven’t been seeing movies in theaters as much as you used to, you’re not alone. Hollywood is in a rut -- last summer's box office revenue was down 11 percent from 2016, and domestic box office revenues for all of2017 were 3 percent behind those of 2016. There are a number of purported causes, such as sequel fatigue, or the growing popularity of streaming services among millennials.
But even if audiences are currently fed up with the movie industry, a company called MoviePass is betting it can get them back in the seats. In August, MoviePass announced it would lower pricing to let anyone see up to a movie a day for only $10 per month, and by December 12, it had surpassed the 1 million paid subscribers mark. As of January 9, the service touted 1.5 million subscribers, an addition of an astonishing 500,000 paying customers (50-percent growth) in less than a month. And in February, that growth continued -- the company managed to add yet another 500,000 subscribers, and has now passed 2 million subscribers.
“Based on the dramatic increase in the number of MoviePass subscribers over such a short period of time, we believe MoviePass will continue to grow its subscriber base significantly,” MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said. “We’re giving people a reason to go back to the movie theaters and they’re going in droves. With awards season here, we hope we can make Hollywood and exhibitors very happy by filling seats with eager audiences.”
Indeed, Lowe noted that around 50 percent of tickets purchased by MoviePass subscribers were for Oscar-nominated films. That said, many of the season's big movies (see: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi) have already mostly run their course, so it'll be interesting to see if MoviePass can maintain such growth in the "down months" before summer blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters.
Founded in 2011, MoviePass is a subscription service that allows users to see movies in theaters (one movie per day) without buying a ticket each time. Instead, the company pays for your ticket when you swipe your MoviePass card. The idea is similar to insurance -- not every user will actually see $10 worth of movies a month, so they end up subsidizing the users who do.
While the service now seems successful, it wasn't always an easy road. When MoviePass decided to lower its prices from $30 per month over the summer, it was threatened with a lawsuit (AMC Theaters suggested it would take legal action in August and claimed that MoviePass would be "losing money on every subscriber seeing two movies or more a month.") More concerning for customers, however, was that MoviePass had trouble keeping up with demand.
The company's card deliveries were delayed by up to three weeks last fall, and although the cards were supposed to be delivered on a first-come, first-served basis, this wasn't entirely the case. "Recently, the manufacturing queue was shuffled, so some of the cards have been delivered out of order," MoviePass admitted on its site in September. "While we work to ensure that processing is fulfilled according to your registration date, some of our more recent sign-ups may receive their cards before some of our earlier sign-ups."
Digital Trends talked to MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes when the service was young (and when its price was $30 per month), and Spikes explained that the service targeted film buffs. “Fifty percent of all ticket sales are sold to 10 percent of moviegoers ... It’s the coveted group that everybody wants to have and own. The right people are signing up. They’re the influencers, the first weekenders,” Spikes said.
We tried MoviePass years ago, and while there were some quirks that needed fixing, we found it to be an affordable, convenient tool for avid moviegoers. But if you really don't want to leave the house to see a movie, there's always Netflix.
Update: MoviePass surpasses the 2 million subscriber mark.