Would you watch ads in exchange for a trip to the movies? Stacy Spikes, MoviePass’ co-founder, thinks you will. On Thursday, March 21, Spikes launched a crowdfunding campaign for a new app called PreShow, which rewards customers with free movie ticket every time that they sit through a 15- to 20- minute block of advertisements.
PreShow is pretty simple. When you want to see a movie, you simply fire up the app and choose the film that you’re planning to watch. PreShow will play “branded content” for about 20 minutes, ideally themed around the movie that you selected. Once you’re finished watching, PreShow will add funds to a virtual credit card, which you can use to order a ticket from the online box office of your choosing.
Don’t think that you can game the system by putting on the ads and walking away, though. The PreShow app comes with facial recognition technology that can tell when you’re watching and when you’re not. If you look away from the screen, PreShow pauses the advertisements. It only resumes playing when it has your full attention.
PreShow also gathers data about how its customers behave, although PreShow promises that “nobody is recorded, no personally identifiable data is shared, all data is aggregated and anonymized to brand partners.” If you click through to get more information about a product, you’ll engage directly with the advertiser, not PreShow. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s something vaguely dystopian about the whole system, like it was plucked directly from Charlie Brooker’s satirical sci-fi series, Black Mirror.
Spikes views PreShow’s Kickstarter campaign as a way to raise awareness and build an audience rather than raising funds, which explains its (relatively) low $10,000 target. “It’s a way to have innovation happen more organically,” Spikes told TechCrunch. Kickstarter pledges start at $15 and top out at $60, and determine how soon you’ll get access to PreShow, and how many friends you can invite to join. As ever, though, we offer a disclaimer about the risks of putting your money into a crowdfunding campaign.
If you’re concerned that PreShow will fall victim to the same financial difficulties that force MoviePass to shake up its subscription model every few months, Spikes says you shouldn’t worry. He claims that the ad-based model should make PreShow more stable than its predecessor. Besides, Spikes, who left MoviePass in 2016, doesn’t see PreShow as another entry in the increasingly crowded movie ticket subscription market. “If you compare a subscription platform to an ad platform to a pay-per-view platform, they’re different animals,” Spikes said.