For those who are forced by tough economic reality to limit their movie-going to just four or five films per month, there’s now the MoviePass, a new service that allows subscribers to visit the theater as many times as they want for the monthly fee of $50 (plus an extra $3 every time they want to see a 3-D film). Wired reports that the Netflix-like “unlimited pass” will launch in the San Francisco Bay Area over the weekend and soon begin popping up in other cities—and while most people would be hard-pressed to find five or more worthy films at the multiplex, in San Francisco, at least, the pass also works at various art house and repertory theaters. And if you still can’t find enough films to see, MoviePass probably isn’t for you.
Or maybe your city just sucks, as local selections will certainly vary—and then there’s the small matter of living your life—but MoviePass is reportedly also planning to introduce the more modest $30 “limited pass” that cuts you off after four movies a month, which sounds a bit more manageable. And if that $30 still seems overpriced, consider this: In addition to allowing you to skip ticket lines by using the MoviePass app, the service will log what movies you’ve seen and allow “studios and producers to engage with avid movie buffs based on their film-attendance history.” So maybe you’ll get a phone call from some Warner Bros. executives asking you how you liked Green Lantern, and what you'd like to see in a sequel. (Or probably just some direct-marketing emails trying to sell you DVDs.)
UPDATE: It seems the introduction of MoviePass has caught most theater chains by surprise, and they’re pretty upset about it. The Wrap reports that Landmark is already taking steps to see how they can prevent MoviePass from providing tickets to its theaters, with its CEO saying he was “stunned” after hearing today’s announcement, as MoviePass reportedly “forgot’ to discuss it with their clients” and instead negotiated its deal with online ticket services. Meanwhile, AMC has issued a press release proclaiming that it will absolutely not accept MoviePass, either in this weekend’s San Francisco beta test or during any future expansion, saying, “It does not integrate well into our programs and could create significant guest experience issues.” (It also points out that MoviePass would conflict with its current AMC Stubs program.)
For their part, MoviePass president Stacy Spikes argues to The Wrap that “getting meeting has been challenging and we haven’t really been taken seriously”—though that seems likely to change pretty quickly—but he remains confident that theaters will come around once they present their research findings promising that concession sales will go up as a result. They may have a tougher time convincing distributors, however, who believe that MoviePass could play havoc with calculating those all-important box-office grosses. Nevertheless, Spikes remains confident that the data gathered from this weekend’s test rollout will convince them all—though obviously, gathering that data just got a lot harder.
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