As MoviePass racks up subscribers, the subscription-based movie ticketing service is setting itself up to become a juggernaut in the hyperlocal marketing space.
Having now reached 1.5 million paying subscribers, with 500,000 of those coming in just the last 30 days, MoviePass is keeping a sharp focus on the data it’s able to collect from moviegoers. The company expects that data to become an important asset to retail partners and the movie industry at large in the coming months and years.
According to Ted Farnsworth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Helios and Matheson Analytics, majority owner of MoviePass, the company is able to collect data about the locations of theaters where moviegoers are going, the genres they watch most frequently, and recurring patterns, such as their preferred theaters or times of day to see films.
“Because we understand viewer habits through this data, we’re able to work and arrange custom product integrations with retail partners,” Farnsworth says. “For instance, we might offer a deal to the soundtrack for the film that a user has seen, or offers at local restaurants.”
One of the company’s recent advertising pushes has been in partnership with I, Tonya, the biopic about figure skater Tonya Harding. MoviePass sent an email to subscribers that included positive reviews of the film and a special offer — subscribers who went to see I, Tonya in theaters by a certain date would be automatically entered to win 10 annual MoviePass subscriptions, which they could dole out to their friends.
These types of marketing deals are one way to offset the cost of doing business for MoviePass. Farnsworth says the company pays theaters full price for each ticket that theaters sell, while MoviePass subscribers are charged just $9.95 per month for an unlimited number of visits.
“Getting theaters on board hasn’t been a challenge. The theaters aren’t losing money,” he says. “As a result, MoviePass users are heading back to theaters, and industry business is surging.”
Similar subscription services like ClassPass, which charges subscribers a monthly fee to take classes at boutique fitness studios, have had difficulty generating enough revenue to outpace the fees paid to participating vendors. In ClassPass’ case, the company pays studios a discounted rate. But MoviePass is taking a different approach. Since the company is paying theaters full price for tickets, it will need to generate revenue in other ways, like advertising and distribution partnerships.
Farnsworth says subscription services like MoviePass, Netflix, and ClassPass resonate with millennials, and he credits much of MoviePass’ recent successes to the buying power of customers in that demographic. While similar services have popped up — Cinemark’s Movie Club and Sinemia are among the most well-known — MoviePass is standing out as the only service currently giving subscribers access to unlimited movies in theaters nationwide for a flat monthly fee.
“This is the generation that grew up on subscription services: a company that offers a channel through which to consume media, goods, or services at a subscription fee. It’s a model that taps into the generation’s values and can be highly successful,” he says.
Having a revenue strategy in place doesn’t mean MoviePass isn’t facing its own challenges. Farnsworth says MoviePass is dealing with “typical growing pains,” specifically having to do with technology and customer service issues that the company is actively working to improve. But profitability will ultimately require a large subscriber base, which is something Farnsworth says the company is focusing on each day.
“MoviePass’s future is getting to the 10 million subscriber mark,” he says. “We are focusing on building out our subscriber base, and, in doing so, reinvigorating the movie theater industry.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.