MoviePass explains

Last Friday, the monthly theatrical subscription service MoviePass shook things up by announcing that it’s launched MoviePass Ventures, a subsidiary of the main company that will be teaming with other companies to co-acquire the distribution rights for independent films. And at the Sundance Film Festival this past weekend, the company’s CEO gave everyone a peek into his psyche by explaining his approach to acquisition and dissing Netflix, firing back at AMC, and even teasing a new MoviePass update for the company’s app.

Speaking with Deadline, CEO Mitch Lowe covered a wide range of talking points that we’ll sift through now. Here are the most important.

Deadline says MoviePass will basically split the cost of the minimum guarantee for a film with its acquisition partners when they sign a deal. “If it’s $4M, then we would put up $2M. Then we market the heck out of it and ensure that we sell a ton of tickets to the theatrical opening, and then we share with all the downstream revenue,” he said, alluding to the work they’ve already done marketing films like I, Tonya.

The company’s long-term future has been called into question before, but Lowe’s concentration on acquisitions stands to put even more money into the MoviePass coffers. When they earn some extra money on the back end of a theatrical release, some of that will immediately go back into buying in to the next project, which will then presumably make them money on the back end. Seems like a sound strategy to me, at least on paper.

Though the general consensus seems to be that MoviePass may not have a sustainable business model, Lowe doesn’t seem remotely fazed by that discussion. In fact, he fired back at AMC (who’s had some issues with the service in the past, but seems to be amiable now): “In an October earnings call, AMC said they were happy to take our money, but they don’t know how MoviePass is making money. My response is you’re the ones who had to borrow $4.5 billion. So, how are you making money?” Mic drop.

And when it comes to Netflix, the streaming service which Lowe co-founded, he says that the notion that Netflix is eating into the audience for theatrical films is flawed: “It’s wishful thinking. They (Netflix) just don’t get the idea that watching a comedy by yourself is not like the getting-out-of-the-house-experience.” Maybe it’s just me, but that seems a little reductive: it’s clear Netflix is aware of the value of theatrical presentation (since they put Mudbound in some theaters last year and have done so with a few of their other original features in years past), but I guess Lowe’s point is they haven’t done that with a straight-up comedy yet?

There are plenty of other fascinating tidbits in the full Deadline interview, including an analogy likening MoviePass members to customers at an all-you-can-eat buffet and analyzing their viewing habits. You can read the full piece here, but one thing’s clear: while people on the outside may be skeptical about MoviePass, they seem to be slowly positioning themselves as a bigger and bigger player in Hollywood. Maybe the smartest move here would be to not underestimate them based on their questionable customer service track record so far.

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