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MoviePass Suspends July 4 Weekend Test in San Francisco

1 Jul, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Theater chains balk at ambitious third-party subscription-based ticket platform that apparently failed to get their input or consent

Talk about an inauspicious start.

MoviePass, an upstart online platform that promised a Netflix-style subscription program for unlimited theatrical movie tickets, July 1 canceled a planned beta test launch during the July 4th weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The New York-based service was forced to nix the test after many of the theatrical chains supposedly participating in program had no idea they were, let alone any idea what the program was about.

After national chains such as AMC Entertainment, Landmark Theatres, which is owned by Mark Cuban, and regional players Camera Cinemas and Big Cinemas, among others, learned more about MoviePass through media reports, their collective outcry was palpable.

“Plans for this program were developed without AMC's knowledge or input,” said Stephen Colanero, chief marketing officer at AMC Theatres. “As MoviePass is currently designed, it does not integrate well into our programs and could create significant guest experience issues.”

Colanero’s primary concerns about MoviePass — echoed by other theaters — involved the program infringing upon their own loyalty programs. AMC Stubs, the company's rewards program, was rolled out in April and rewards participants for ticket and concessions purchases.

National theater operators — already blindsided by premium VOD and declines in attendance — have fought back with aggressive moviegoer loyalty programs and rollout of theatrical production companies (Regal Cinema) designed to entice repeat customers.

“We were surprised to see the press release and subsequent press coverage of MoviePass earlier this week as it included several of our San Francisco locations,” Colanero said. “It was news to us to see that we were participants and we will be communicating to those theatres they are not to accept MoviePass."

MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes, in a media report, said he hoped to resurrect the service sometime in the future with a more clearly defined business model to theaters.

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