AMC Isn’t Seeing the Bigger Picture of MoviePass
When MoviePass announced it was slashing its monthly subscription plan to just $10 to see a new movie every day, within hours the service reached Netflix levels of recognition. Much in the same way Netflix's similarly priced subscription model has altered how people consume television; MoviePass's unbelievably low price seems to put it in position to be the next service to dramatically an industry.
This time the industry in line for change is film and the aggressive offer has already sent filmgoers into a frenzy. After all, at just $10 a month, mathematically that means you'll be able to see 365 films for just $120. Obviously most people will not see nowhere near that many films but if you see just one movie a month, the service pays for itself.
This all seems too good to be true since MoviePass claims it will still pay theatres the full price of each ticket despite what it costs customers. According to Ted Fansworth, CEO of the company that purchased a majority stake in MoviePass, the point isn't to make money selling tickets, it's to design an entire new echo system for the movie business where thousands of people return to theatres to purchase concessions, buy soundtracks, and form enough behavioral data to send back to movie studiosto allocate their budgets better.
AMC theaters isn't buying-in to Fansworth's vision though and instead countered back by threatening a lawsuit against the site. According to a press release from AMC, they claim MoviePass is doomed to failure and believe it's low price can do irreparably damage to the industry if consumers get used to the idea of paying just $10 to see multiple movies a month. With subscription models becoming more of a norm for younger audiences, it's not crazy to think that MoviePass could make the thought of buying a single movie ticket as obtuse as the concept of buying a full music album in 2017.
AMC is justified in seeing MoviePass as a hazard to their business but I think their rush to threaten a lawsuit is misguided. In fact, I think if they embraced the potential swarms of customers headed back to theaters, MoviePass could actually be asavior for the theatre industry.
It's been no secret this past summer has been a disappointing one for movie theatres. Aside from AMC's steady decline in shares, most films are falling short of acclaim and it's not the fault of RottenTomatoes. The lifeless drumbeat of by-the-numbers blockbuster after unnecessary and unwanted sequel/reboot, is wearing audiences out. Theatres are so crowded with unoriginal big budget films that what gets lost in the shuffle are smaller more original films that are largely only available through video on-demand.
This past year some of the most engaging films I've seen; Lost City of Z, Lady Macbeth, Colossal, and Personal Shopper were all seen at home. The year before that were The Witch, The Lobster, Blue Jay, and White Girl, which were also ones I saw on a sofa instead of a theatre. These films aren't exactly the year's best but each of them were unique ones that weren't easy to find in theaters since there isn't a lot of room for smaller films without huge budgets and marketing campaigns. Still, seeing these smaller films at home have been a much more pleasant experience than seeing a rushed blockbuster in a crowded and loud theatre.
Over the years theatres have increasingly clamored for big blockbuster films over smaller ones but when films begin to fail to stand out from the rest, people get more comfortable staying in and seeing what's available to watch on-demand. Where MoviePass can help with this is that if it does usher in a new era of audiences seeing films on a semi-regular basis, the market for smaller and less expensive films could start to thrive since seeing blockbusters would no loner be the only draw of going to a theatre.
A steady stream of movie viewers can finally pull audiences away from blockbusters and create room to see other more original films they didn't know much about. Without the pressure to churn out the next Avengers, this could create a ripple effect in movie studios that start to re-orientate them into creating orignal new stories at a fraction of the cost of franchise films.Over time this could give movie studios more flexibility to take risks on original films and allow for theaters to reap the benefits of diversifying their film selections.
AMC shouldn't get in the way of this. It should be embracing an injection of life to the industry and focus on creating more enjoyable viewing experiences in theatres such as better food options, merchandising, and more. Afterall, if MoviePass customers begin to flock to theatres in droves without worrying about the expense of a ticket, they'll likley be more willing to spend money in other ways at theatres if it givesthem something to buy.
One thing about millennials is that it's true we enjoy experiences and aren't shy about throwing money into ones that are pleasant. If AMC wants to find a way to tap into them, going after MoviePass isn't the way to do it.