MoviePass, the ill-fated subscription movie ticket service which promised unlimited viewings and then crashed into bankruptcy, is set to return, after a cofounder stepped in this week unexpectedly. Launched in 2011, MoviePass gained in hype-levels in 2016 and 2017, when for a single monthly payment theater-goers could up to a movie each day.
Unsurprisingly, that proved to be popular – and unsustainable. MoviePass saw repeated waves of bad publicity, as the economics of the product were upended multiple times to cap usage and limit just how much the company was forced to pay out of pocket to sustain the service.
By early 2018, the unlimited plan was dropped for new subscribers, only to be restored as an option just weeks later. Borrowing millions to keep the service afloat, threatening to increase subscription fees and then backtracking, and then limiting how many tickets customers could actually obtain, it became increasingly clear that the practicalities of MoviePass couldn’t keep up with the core appeal. In September 2019, it announced it would be closing altogether.
Now, though, MoviePass will return – at least, according to original cofounder Stacy Spikes. He was granted ownership again this week, Insider reports, by a Southern District of New York bankruptcy court judge. It’s unclear at this point how much Spikes paid to the trustee that is handling the bankruptcy case, though he says it’s less than $250,000.
“We are thrilled to have it back and are exploring the possibility of relaunching soon,” Spikes told Insider. “Our pursuit to reclaim the brand was encouraged by the continued interest from the moviegoing community. We believe, if done properly, theatrical subscription can play an instrumental role in lifting moviegoing attendance to new heights.”
The relaunch won’t take place until 2022 at the earliest, it’s suggested, and the new MoviePass will be starting from scratch with subscribers. No data on previous customers was included as part of the purchase.
It all comes as the prospects for movie theaters in a post-pandemic world remain uncertain. With COVID-19 forcing theaters to cease in-person showings, studios have been forced to adapt to a different sort of audience – or demand patience from it. In some cases, high-profile movies have been pushed back, what studios hoping that theaters will be able to reopen and the status quo of blockbuster opening-weekends will resume.
At the same time, we’ve also seen an increase in streaming availability, much sooner than the traditional cadence. Recently released Bond movie No Time to Die, for example, premiered in theaters in late September 2021 – two years later than the originally-scheduled release – and then became available for purchase through digital download services from early November 2021.
How that change in strategy – and how long that strategy continues – will affect services like the rebooted MoviePass remains to be seen. Ironically, a smaller audience might actually leave it more manageable as the new MoviePass scales up: at its height, around 3 million subscribers were attempting to use the service before its demise, contributing to the company burning through tens of millions of dollars a month.