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David Poland

By David Poland

The Immediate Future Of Subscription Moviegoing

19 Responses to “The Immediate Future Of Subscription Moviegoing”

  1. JSPartisan says:

    One: they are no longer offering unlimited. It’s four movies a month, and that seems to be where this shit is heading.

    Two: that’s a fishy ass story, and it’s not like moviepass has won Jack and shit. Whatever damage is done. Guess what? People who love movies will pay to see them. It’s not like a mass audience wants this product anyway.

  2. Pete B says:

    Who would turn down seeing a movie for $2.50 vs the $9.99 they are now? That’s 4 movies for the cost of one.
    Hell yeah there is a mass audience.

  3. lockedcut says:

    The thing about venture capital money for tech companies is it has to be spent one way or another. Some companies do this by taking everyone in the company to chez panisse et al frequently and throwing parties, movie pass burns VC money by trying to grow a large enough subscriber base to allow them to bully exhibitors and studios.

  4. Hcat says:

    There is a model here for something, I mean its America you should get a discount for buying in bulk. But I am still enough of a luddite to not understand how this works. I get the pass and pay 10 bucks, see 5 movies and they can compensate the 40 bucks difference and eke out a profit just by having my data? Honestly my data is worthless, all that they can monetize off of that is moviewatching that they are now subsidizing.

    Your Mon-Thur idea is intriguing and since concessions increase with the foot traffic taking a slite bite off their cut of omissions might work alright, but I would think the more frequently you go to the theater the less likely you are to kick down for popcorn and pepsi (for health and pocketbook reasons).

    David’s point about engaging the frequent movie goers is completely on target. They shouldn’t be trying to get people who see six movies a month to see eight at a discounted price, they need to get the people who see one movie a month to see two. This is like Wisconsin creating an initiative to get me to drink more beer, I am at capacity, they need to get the people who have two drinks a week to move up to a six pack.

  5. lockedcut says:

    If MoviePass actually is increasing usage significantly than overall ticket sales last year would not have declined.

    Movie pass is a pain in the ass for anyone seeing movies the way 98% of the population prefers to see movies, which is with someone else.

    Yes cineastes don’t mind seeing movies alone, but I have been told so many times that it’s just flat out wierd that I do so.

    Movie pass is no good for families, who would benefit the most.

    The greatest advance in film ticketing in the last twenty years is buying your tickets in advance. Movie pass kills and forces you back into the dark ages of buying your tickets day of and at the theatre.

    It is incredibly funny that someone who never pays to see movies, David Poland, is complaining that the people who pay to see movies are the problem for wanting to pay less.

  6. lockedcut says:

    Finally movie pass has a lot of hurdles to change movie goer behavior. They have to sign up for a card wait for the card wait for the card to activate check into the app and finally buy the ticket. It is hardly as easy as signing up for Netflix, it’s more like the six step process it took to access Netflix streaming via mailed disc back when streaming first started.

    Additionally, after the Cambridge analytics scandal is it not Obvious that movie pass makes so much money selling their subscribers data that they are probably profitable even if every subscriber sees thirty movies a month. In other words you have to be a moron to think it’s about movies not the data.

    Lastly, aren’t like forty percent of movie goers people who see five or fewer films a year, and another thirty percent see 5-10 films a year? That means that 70 % of the potential user base already has life habits that make them unlikely to see more than one film a month. Let’s say movie pass radically adjusts habits and causes a mind blowing twenty percent increase in usage, you’ve still got almost all of that user base below the level of one per month, which is just printing money.

  7. lockedcut says:

    I was once an extreme case for about a decade I saw about thirty new release films a year in theaters. At an average of 12$ per ticket in Los Angeles that’s about 360 bucks a years. A movie pass subscription is 120 bucks a year, so that’s a savings of $240 bucks a year. That’s a lot, a savings of four dollars a week, but it’s not the most amazing highly motivating savings ever.

  8. Hcat says:

    In the past I believe someone might have shared the NATO statistics about moviegoing behavior. The one that shows females make up 53% of the audience, half the US population will not set foot in a movie theater this year, the top whatever percent buys half the tickets etc….

    If this is not proprietary information I would love to see someone post the most recent statistics.

    And Lockedcut, David is not complaining, he is opining on a potential change in the way people see movies and the potential effect on the industry, which is why we come here. It is rarely the films themselves (the software) that create the trends but the outside forces (the hardware) that have the greatest influence.

  9. spassky says:

    I won’t say which one, but a rep theater in NYC employee recently told me anywhere from 80-90% of tickets sold come from moviepass. the theater business is no longer profitable, and exhibitors are cashing in now. these types of theaters need to introduce more lucrative subscription models of their own, that won’t include the outsized revenue they get from concessions and chi chi restaurants and cafes attached. Anthology’s crazy scheme of building an extra floor for a restaurant and cafe will bankrupt them, and they are reading too much into unprofitable models of other theaters. Where do small heartland theaters go? nowhere, because unfortunately tech start ups only give a crap about subscription bases from these places rather than actual sustainable profit models. It’s shameful, but it’s the future.

  10. Stella's Boy says:

    I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to get Movie Pass. I wish it had existed in my single days when I was seeing 3-4 movies a week in theaters. I see about 3-4 a month now, but most of them are on Tuesday or Thursday, when the local chain has $5 movies. And I definitely prefer to buy my tickets in advance. I can show up right when the trailers start and skip the 20 minutes of Chevy commercials that precede them.

  11. sam says:

    Limited to four movie a month? That works for me and in some markets such as here in L.A., just going once can save about $5-7.
    I expect that they will eventually follow the lead that the chains took on the flat rate tickets and charge a premium for certain locations and perhaps weekends.
    But at this point it still seems too good to last.

  12. Glamourboy says:

    Don’t understand all the sour grapes…Movie Pass works great for me. I was overseas from Sep-Dec and missed out on a lot of films. I got MP when I returned and I saw ten movies the first month. I’ve held steady with about 6-8 every month after that. And their data is correct–at least for me–I am giving marginal movies a chance, I am seeing more mid-week films, I am seeing movies twice (on separate days), and sometimes I will go alone. I love MP.

  13. KrazyEyes says:

    Sometime it would be fun to go back and re-read all of DP’s “Netflix is Doomed Any Day Now” posts from 3-5 years back.

  14. lockedcut says:

    The big problem for theatres is that these days they are owned by Wall Street. This means they are expected to bring in growth every year,

    That means they are forced to raise prices, raise up charges or otherwise keep the money increasing. Twenty years ago you might have a midwestern millionaire that owned forty theatres in his region repeated a thousand times over around the country.

    Wall Street killed all that and Wall Street isn’t interested in stable revenue and stable profits, that is an unacceptable business model to them, even though it was quite a preferred business model by all those mini moguls for a century.

    Movie pass is disrupting walls greets insistence on growth via steady increases in conSumer prices. Wall Street won’t like that.

  15. lockedcut says:

    Movie pass is so far ahead of the curve of the exhibitors. At the theatre I was last at the theatre tracked movie pass usage by writing “MP” on both sides of the ticket stub, presumably then use that info to match credit card numbers to MoviePass cards so they can then be tracked for usage.

    Remember when Netflix was inconvenient and you had to explain to very skeptical non techies that it was amazing, if they only accepted that you had to wait three days to see the movie you wanted, you could see anything you wanted whenever. Right now MoviePass is in that infant stage of tech inconvenience, but if it ever gets to the ease of streaming. Trouble.

    But should be easy to nip in the bud. Most of the country is monopoly locked to one theatre chain, which means each theatre chain can launch their movie pass knockoff and outcompete it by allowing discounts on concessions for their subscription. Only in big cities is there any choice and realistically, other than crazy cineastes, everyone in big cities goes to only one theatre as well.

  16. spassky says:

    Yeah, but Netflix is now a shitshow dumpster fire of content with like maximum 10 good movies at any one time.

  17. Sergio says:

    More establishment fear mongering over paradigm shifting tech breakthroughs. Pandora’s box is open. No going back now.
    You people still think that the companies and the exhibitors should have the power to tell US the consumers how to use their product.. NO WAY. It is the paying customer who keeps the lights on in any business, any industry. Look at music.
    Ignoring all our honest feedback for the sake of protecting your shareholders and bottom line without giving us the value for our patronage is a road to oblivion and the companies that think they can “wait it out” or outsmart the new ventures will collapse and quickly.
    You know why exhibitors are shitting their pants? because their biz model is no longer sustainable. Accountants and arm chair biz bloggers can wax lyrical for thousand word articles on cash flow negative tech co’s doom but the reality is that Netflix has grown its subscription base year by year for how long now? THAT will always bring more capital, period. How is the year by year ticket sales counter in domestic BO sizing up? I’m not talking revenue, talking ticket stubs. Easy to wear rose tinted glasses and say there’s “no problem” when you raise prices every year to mask dwindling attendance. This makes US, the people who keep the lights on, run even faster to the new kids on the block who are merely offering an option and competing in a free market.
    And the data thing, you guys don’t think AMC profits off your data? WTF do you guys think “loyalty” programs are for?? *face palm*

  18. JSPartisan says:

    1) if you’re using Netflix for movies, then you are using it wrong. It’s more than just movies. It’s multiple cable networks in one.

    2) Google Memphis and movie show times. It’s Malco and no one.else. if you look at biggish cities not on the coast. It’s still one family run chain after the other. It’s not what it was, but it’s not all homogenized.

    3) Cinemacon is happening this week. Why? Distributors still run the show. Also, ticket prices are generally fluctuating less these days. Why? Premium format theaters.

  19. Hcat says:

    “It is the paying customer who keeps the lights on in any business, any industry. Look at music.”

    Ha, the music industry is exactly what the movie industry is trying to avoid. The argument seems to be meet the demands of the paying customers but their demands seem to be that they don’t want to pay anymore.

    The idea that shrinking ticket sales is a harbinger of doom for theatrical has been around for decades, and theaters are still here. With any product a bump in price leads to a corresponding decrease in demand, that ticket prices have risen steadily and been met with a slow decrease in theater attendance is eighth grade math.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin