Sick of paying 14 bucks to see a movie? A cheaper solution for die-hard movie fans is on the way.
MoviePass, a subscription movie service that lets you watch one 2-D movie a day for $30 a month, is launching today in the city and nationwide.
Think of it as a Netflix for the big screen.
This almost all-you-can-eat service tried to launch about a year ago, with a $50-a-month service, but was forced to pull the plug after movie theater chains balked.
The theater giants groused that they did not want an outsider muscling in and setting ticket prices for them.
But while MoviePass previously depended on online ticketing companies affiliated with the theater chains, this time the SoHo-based tech startup has developed a geo-location based technology that allows it to bypass exhibitors.
MoviePass subscribers receive a debit card, managed by Discover Card, that is activated with a MoviePass iPhone app. The technology allows members to use that card as a mode of payment at any theater that accepts Discover. MoviePass pays the theaters the full retail ticket price.
The movie discounts service is the brainchild of Stacy Spikes and his partner Hamet Watt. Spikes, a 44-year-old entertainment vet, previously worked at Miramax and went on to launch the Urbanworld Film Festival.
The company, which employs 12, has so far raised $4.7 million. Investors include True Ventures, AOL Ventures and William Morris Entertainment.
“This is for the film fans, the person who sees movies on the first weekend,” Spikes said. “This is for the person who people ask, ‘What should I see?’ ”
For now, the service is invite-only. MoviePass has 75,000 people on its waiting list who will be invited on a rolling basis. They can each invite 10 of their friends.
Prices are still being tested. Subscriptions in New York will range from $29.99 to $34.99. At the $30 level, a local movie fan would have to see a movie at least three times a month to come out ahead.
The less frequently its subscribers hit theaters, the higher MoviePass’ potential profits. The company will also be selling movie-related products.
Wade Holden, an entertainment analyst at SNL Kagan says he sees a market for this kind of service.
“There is a segment of population that goes two to three times as month,” Holden said. “The teen market goes with very high frequency, especially in the summer.”
But it’s unclear how the exhibitors, who have discount and loyalty programs of their own, will react to the rejiggered version of the movie subscription service. In the past, one chain threatened to turn away MoviePass customers.
MoviePass claims it’s a win for theaters. At a time when ticket sales are down, the service has the potential to juice attendance and concession sales, it says.
In a nine-month-long test, a small group of MoviePass members increased their movie theater attendance 64% and their concession sales by 123%.
When asked for a comment, theater giant AMC, which had opposed MoviePass’ first try, said, “AMC has no affiliation with MoviePass and we’ve had no discussions with the company about participation.”
Spikes is hoping AMC and others will come around. “If we increase people going to the movies, everyone will be happy.”
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