Movie Theaters Are Developing Their Own Ticket Subscriptions, But Can They Compete With MoviePass?

MoviePass continues to grow, with over 2 million subscribers paying $9.95 (or less) a month to see one movie every day in theaters. It's an incredible bargain, but it's one that has seen MoviePass hemorrhaging money to the tune of $150 million in 2017. Some think MoviePass won't last, but the company has their sights set on continuing to grow their customer base and selling the valuable consumer data about their movie habits that comes with it.

Though MoviePass may be good for the consumer, it's certainly rubbing movie theater chains and distributors the wrong way. Even though they're being paid the full price for movie tickets bought with MoviePass, they're worried that the service will go under, leaving all the customers who were flocking to movies more often demanding to pay equally low prices for their tickets. They're also worried about having to strike a deal with MoviePass that would have them give up part of their ticket or concession sales. So what are the movie theaters trying to do to counter those fears? Create their own subscription service, of course.

Deadline has word that movie theater chains and studios aren't opposed to the monthly movie ticket subscription model, but they don't want to cut a third party in on the deal. One unnamed theater chain executive told the outlet, "Whatever MoviePass is doing, can be accomplished without them."

Basically, studios and movie theaters think they can offer a subscription service that is more appealing to consumers. How will it be more appealing than costing only $9.95 a month? Well, movie theaters can offer subscription services that include premium priced tickets for 3D and IMAX movies, as well as the other alternative formats like D-Box and whatnot. Furthermore, there's apparently even discussion about including extras when audiences see tentpoles like Star Wars or Marvel movies.

Of course, the only problem is that movie theaters need to negotiate with studios as to how they will share the box office take of movies when there's a subscription service in play. AMC Theatres apparently tried to get a ticket subscription model off the ground, but the studios didn't like what they brought to the table (which is why the chain was so adamantly against MoviePass to begin with and have tried to make it inconvenient to use for some of their customers). So this won't be an easy prospect to negotiate. But the bigger problem might be the fact that MoviePass is in the middle of cornering the market on movie ticket subscriptions, and movie theaters could be too late to do anything about it.

MoviePass Is Already Changing Audience Viewing Habits

A recent survey done by the National Research Group for The Hollywood Reporter found that MoviePass subscribers are seeing far more movies than they did before signing up for the service. The survey polled more than 1,500 online moviegoers (including 439 MoviePass subscribers), with ages ranging from 18 to 74, from March 14 through March 19.

The survey indicates that subscribers are twice as likely to see a movie on opening weekend as nonsubscribers, and they're also seeing six more movies on average than those without a MoviePass. Because of this, there are MoviePass customers who have decided to see some movies by themselves when their friends don't want to join them, and 42% of customers are even going to movies in the middle of the week.

With such a low price point, MoviePass is a hit with consumers, and it's going to take a lot to sway them from the service enough to be loyal to a particular movie theater chain. That's especially true when movie theater chains have increasingly showed that they're not putting in the effort to make the moviegoing experience any better, despite the fact that movie ticket prices are higher than ever.

MoviePass is clearly ahead of the curve when it comes to landing a subscriber base, but many are still concerned as to whether their business model will work out as they've prognosticated. Even MoviePass subscribers are skeptical that the service can last. Apparently 63% of those surveyed think the service is too good to be true, and 37% of those strongly feel the same. But they're still taking advantage of the service while it's available.

Change Is Coming No Matter What

Regardless of who comes out on top in this scenario, it's clear that consumers want to see more movies, and they want a price point that allows them to save some money at the same time. The market has spoken. So now movie theaters and distributors need to figure out if they can come up with a subscription model that satisfies their customers both financially and qualitatively. Maybe they need to take cues from the ticket subscription services that have successfully worked in the United Kingdom for years. And they need to hurry too, because MoviePass is only going to keep growing, and they're already striking deals with movie theater chains like Landmark. The clock is ticking.