For MoviePass, they are losing money and passing it off to theaters - it's like borrowing money to buy more ingredients for a failing restaurant. You can't charge less than the marginal cost, it doesn't make sense!
I am trying to wrap my head around what MoviePass is trying to do - especially given the number of friends I have who say they would easily be willing to pay 2x or 3x for the service. The data they are gathering cannot be more valuable than the cost of a movie ticket.
I have to imagine they were making a play at building up a huge enough audience to strongarm theaters into lowering their rates. Well the joke is on them - everyone knows that they have no bargaining power. Plus, signing up was so hard, their audience is skewed towards power users and people persistent in their cheapness.
An emergency loan with no change to the service whatsoever? They are really having a deer in the headlights moment.
The old joke is "Sure we have marginal losses, but we'll make up for it with volume!"
If they can demonstrate to the theaters that their heavy users are worth a lot more than just a ticket, perhaps high concession sales (through coupon redemption), then maybe the theaters would consider giving them a break on ticket price because they're supplying high-value customers.
Secondly, if they can pump the hell out of new movies so the studios or distributors get an even bigger bump on opening weekend, then the studios might be willing to fully or partially fund those tickets for that publicity (aka "trade spend").
I don't think this is going to work out but I can see how this would look workable in a model and pitch.
The funny thing about this is that sometimes my wife and I want to go to a movie on a date night but we can't even find something that we actually want to go see. We'll go out for dinner and then instead of going to a movie we'll come home and watch another episode or two of a good TV show. High budget TV serials are so good now that movies can barely compete.
The subscription model where you assume your customers just forget to unsubscribe will never go anywhere.
That's the gym model, sign up people in January for a yearly gym membership, have 90% of those people not visit past the end of the month.
Reminds me of a startup I worked with once.
The goal wasn't to make a viable product. It was to make a big splash and get bought.
10 Start a product/service
20 Make a big hype and get lots of publicity
30 Get bought by some larger company that sees you as a threat/opportunity
40 Founders get big cash payout, everyone else gets the shaft
50 GOTO 10
What I find ethically borderline is that no founders will admit this, they will all pretend their goal is to make it a super successful sustainable company.
As you said, the issue is that founders will usually get a moderate payout (a couple Million$), while even early employees will get almost nothing.
But as someone who has spent his entire career working startups, and just a human who has seen other scams before, I think the cliche about not being able to con an honest person is fairly true. If you buy the hype that you'll make an unreasonable amount of money in a short period of time, well, buyer beware.
How is that an issue? To quote Robert T. Kiyosaki's book "Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom": "Your boss' job is not to make you rich. Your boss' job is to make sure you get your paycheck. It's your job to become rich if you want to."
1. What is your monetization strategy?
2. What is your plan for profitability?
If you are a founder and you get a proposal for a 10M$ acquisition, you know you will make something around 2-3M$, which is not too bad.
The employee however will make a small 100k if he owns 1% after dilution, which is usually not the case. This is after many years of hardwork, probably taking a paycut of at least 100k$ per year compared to a big company.
My criteria for a job is the technology stack, the environment, and the money.
As stated above, I think its that employees aren't asking the right questions.
It's like when purchasing a vehicle; it's up to the buyer to educate themselves. Savvy buyers get better deals. We'd like to think of our industry as a meritocracy; but it's still largely based on humans with monkey brains,and greed is a powerful incentive.
I asked our CEO to give us an update on our runway, and he told me. I guess he could be lying, but I don't see what purpose that would serve.
At my previous company, the CFO was invited to our semi annual engineering meetings, and he'd give us the last quarterly numbers, along with a lengthy Q&A.
At the startup I co-founded before that, the CEO/co-founder was very transparent about our financials and gave me all the time I required to understand the impacts of the business decisions he was making.
Before that, at INRIX, at least once a month during our weekly all-hands, we'd get our financials detailed to us.
Being a founder requires optics, progressive disclosure, and getting creative with the representation of data, but in my experience, I've yet to be in a situation where I felt I was lied to, or purposefully misled.
Im cases like these, founders are in a strong position, even if on paper, their shares would be worth zero. So for their service to stay on deck until the last moment and let the band play (in order to save some investor money), they are usually generously paid from the remains — the term you‘re looking for is carveout.
Punishing founders will make the investors look bad and cost big money, so both sides collude at the cost of the employees.
An acquaintance of mine started some Java/Web startup when the web and Java were just taking off (1998? 1999?). He made a lot of noise. Then he hired a top B-school alumnus to specifically get his company bought out, and promised him a large chunk (30%? I don't remember) of the company if it went for more than $X million. Well, lo and behold, the B-school guy found a sucker and the company sold for close to $50M. This guy retired right away, and now cruises around as an "angel investor".
After all, who's in a better position to know when someone's trying to sucker an investor?
It worked a little too well.
I was just thinking, what could they possibly do to survive as long as possible?
They could introduce incentives to reduce the number of movies people saw a week? Maybe some kind of credit system, where customers built up points towards a premium membership.
They could also start taking the most expensive users of their platform. For whatever reason they could. Ban users sharing accounts. Introduce friction somehow. Get them to reenter their payment info.
The customer data is mostly worthless but it's scary. They could weaponize it. Announce to high use customers that they're going to sell non premium customer data. Might scare off some privacy minded customers.
Strong arm theaters somehow? Send customers to certain theaters and away from others by dangling credits toward premium or some other incentive structure
Since I joined, they pretty much did this by limiting people from seeing a movie more than once. There just aren't that many movies, and nobody really wants to see every movie that's out.
It's pretty frustrating how they sold me a year-long subscription and then immediately started changing what I bought. I'd rather they used some of this borrowed money to refund the remainder of my year.
Issue a chargeback.
They've already done this. Just like unlimited data doesn't really mean unlimited. I guess they need to lower the thresh hold even more and affect more of their customers?
Other ideas might work!
So long as Google is an 800B behemoth who invests more than anyone else in lobbying, monetizing customer data (and sucking up massively more data than needed) is going to be legal.
Probably not enough to become profitable though.
The gist of it is, they're hoping to grow so big that movie theaters will have no choice but to negotiate with them, to share part of the revenues they bring theaters from people who normally don't come watch movies on a whim anymore.
I'm considering switching from MoviePass to AMC A-Stubs or whatever it's called, but will lose out on the opportunity to walk to my local theater for a free flick.
In recent years it's mostly been Marvel films + a random other thing that I also happened to be interested in seeing (E.G. Incrediables 2).
We have gone to see a lot more movies this month since we had it. If you see two movies a month you break even. If we see one $17.26 IMAX movie we almost break even.
But more importantly, for us. It is a commitment device. There are a lot of times that life gets busy and my wife and I don’t go out. Now we just get out the house once or twice a week and go to a movie. We can even meet for an extended lunch sometimes since my wife had a split shift during the school year. She’s off during the summer.
I really hope it works out -- but in all sincerity, I don't see why the theaters themselves aren't just copying this for their chains. MoviePass has already demonstrated the market.
AMC's A-List (costs $19.99) does not pay $9-$13 per showing a la MoviePass. They pay the same space/personnel costs per seat they always have. Tickets have never been a theater's largest or most desirable source of revenue.
mostly I like to see movies at Cinerama though. Just way way better.
Also as another user posted below, set a cap on the number of movies you can view per month and offer a premium unlimited membership upsell.
I hate this surge pricing bullshit. It's just scalping and I'd rather lose moviepass entirely than every contribute to that shit.
It worked for Uber tho. And now they've raised prices in markets where they are established.
MoviePass could start to make their own movies, but that would require a substantial investment and isn't really comparable
what would happen if Universal Pictures stepped in with a subscription model (or whatever Moviepass does) for their movies?
Universal just has to buy MoviePass. Assuming it has the cash. From what I've read over the last few years, the big Hollywood studios are not cash-rich.
For theatres it's even easier to offer an unlimited option since they can just have the accounts internally. Studios can partner with theatres, though that seems overly complicated (I went to Mission Impossible last night, so I need a paramount account?)
They may need another ten or twenty billion, or maybe infinite billions because their business model is critically flawed.
If I start a company that just subsidizes Uber rides I'm never going to make money. Unless Moviepass provides some actual value to theatres, they won't make money. Theatres aren't going to give them discount rates to Star Wars or Avengers 4 because those movies sell out anyway.
MoviePass has paid $137.00 for me, and I've paid them $89.95 (I bought the annual pass, joke's on me now, but I did get enough in to be better than break even). If I'd done the monthly I'd have spent $38.80 over that same time, they'd be out $100. They'd need me to idle for 10 months to catch up.
The question is, do you really value the other 13 movies at (70$/13) a piece ? In my case probably not.
I, personally, enjoy going ot the theater, I always have. And in past years have seen at least this many movies (though with an emphasis on catching matinees and discounted options, like two-dollar Tuesday or whatever). Two movies (average) per month is not uncommon going back about 6 years for me, with some years being lower than others depending on the releases.
Would be behind, but their card wouldn't work last time I went. oh well.
Acted-upon, local recommendations aren't worth as much as MoviePass is paying for customer movie tickets.
Yeah, but they think they can get the loss low enough that it becomes feasible to overcome that with data. And it goes beyond just knowing what movies someone is watching.
For example, they know the exact location and time of where people are going to be (the app requires location to work). So MoviePass can use that info to upsell their customers to restaurants/etc around the theater and even transportation there and back. Create packages around this.
I already know the clientele that visits the area, whether that's relatively high-end, working folks on their one-movie-night-escape a week, high school kids on date night, etc.
I can already trivially find show (and run-) times from the theater and plan to stay open later or otherwise staff accordingly.
I can advertise, in the theater even, for not a whole lot of money, and reach the people who saw "movie x". Theaters are happy to take your money for a 30-second spot in between pre-roll movie trivia clips.
If I'm an uber/lyft/taxi driver, the same thing applies -- it's easy to find out when movies are out, so it's easy to be in the area.
I guess I just don't see the value in "exact location and time" (at the theater, shortly before the movie starts) or any other data they can provide.
What am I missing? What use-case is there for that data that makes it worth paying for?
Instead of just movie tickets, they'll combine it with other things. Dinner and a movie. Movie then a ride home. Stuff like that. I think their plan is to take commissions.
You can if you are dumping to achieve a monopoly and/or monopsony where you will then have pricing power on one or the other side of the transaction you are in the middle of.
But that's a game you either win completely before you run out of money or die horribly; there's no glidepath to a sustainable but not dominant position. And MoviePass seems very close to the die horribly outcome.
Well, they're gathering people's information & movie consumption habits as well. I could imagine a similar business losing money on the movie cost but making up for it by exploiting people's data. Not sure how "well" they're doing on that front though.
That’s the gamble right there. You think a movie ticket is worth what the movie theaters is telling you. MoviePass is calling their bluff by undercutting them on their own service if they get enough of the market theaters will have to cut them a deal they can survive on.
I assume HN knows that most Hollywood movies are deliberately made for export to Chinese and Indian audiences.
Like the hub and spoke model of pizza shops. Basically bet that spoke opportunities will appear if the hub is engaging enough.
Plus I won't believe the "every purchase is a loss" narrative unless I see evidence. Especially recently.
When you install the app what does seek to access? Given that most movie theaters are surrounded by food & drink establishments then it would seem they're not too far from becoming a "niche" Groupon. That's got to add some revenue.
Moi? The data is a privacy issue. But I'm a fringe minority. Most ppl see deal and convenience and ignore the risks.
Customer's line of thought: I've already paid for this service. It'd be stupid to see a movie without using it, because I'd be double paying (not entirely accurate, but this is the thinking). I can go 2 more miles and see the same movie at a similar time and not have to pay for the ticket. Sold!
The problem for MoviePass is the customers will do that, and MoviePass can't actually afford the tickets (since most of their spending, now, seems to be from borrowed money).
I have a MoviePass, and when they removed a big AMC theater around my place a couple months ago, I simply drove two more miles to the Century theater. I have zero loyalty to a specific theater//chain, I care a little bit about better seats though.
So yeah, their goal was to get that bargaining power by getting as many users as possible.
This might not have been much of an issue (since MoviePass pays full price for the tickets), but they tried to make a play for all of a theater's concessions revenue rather than just the revenue traceable to MoviePass customers.
The MoviePass system was probably pitched like a health-club membership with the expectation that nobody would ever use it, or like a streaming service people forgot they were subscribing to, but it seems they've captured a base of enthusiasts taking full advantage of the program.
A gym user attending a gym doesn't incur significant additional staffing costs. The work required to clean the gym may increase a bit but that'd be nowhere near the price of even the cheapest gym memberships.
> The marginal cost of each user rises too, as people that are unable to get on machine are more likely to churn.
That's not a cost, it's a factor for the overall churn rate and marginal cost for acquiring a new user. It'd limit the max profitability of a gym (i.e. getting to churn = growth equilibrium) but it's not an operational cost.
But that's not the right way to gauge "cost per member-usage". If you get a lot more usages, you will have to pay noticeably more for staff, maintenance, replacement, etc.
For comparison, how would you gauge the actual cost of sending a letter in the mail? Naively, you would say "well, you can't detect the cost of sending it in labor or fuel costs, so it's zero".
But that would be wrong. The right way is to say "how much would it cost to send a million more letters? The cost of one letter should be treated as one millionth of that" because, in the large, your marginal costs will scale that way as letter transmission goes up and down.
So yeah, the gym is, for all relevant purposes, bearing a small cost each time you use the gym. It's just that, for the vast majority of members, all those usages cost them much less than the membership fee.
 I've heard figures of $1/visit but can't find at the moment.
They are on staff anyways. It costs them nothing extra.
What is true is that they can understaff (and have less equipment) than if they had 100% regular participation.
Competition is good for consumers.
Is it? 3 movies/week for $20/month is about $1.67/ movie.
I think it is just around until movie pass kicks the bucket (at least at that price)
As I said earlier, the price they pay for the studio for each movie a subscriber sees is around $4-$6. They still make a lot of money on high priced concessions.
The best I could come up with - 93 wide release movies in 2016.
AMC does restrict the subscription service so it doesn’t cover the Fathom Events movies.
At my local AMC, they currently have 18 movies showing, and pre-sales already running for 10 new movies opening between now and Aug 15th. I think you're either vastly underestimating the number of movies out there, or you haven't been to a theater in a while.
But, I am definitely debating on getting the AMC subscription now that I know it's a thing. $20/mo sounds like it's very worth it.
Anecdotally, I know about 15 people who have MoviePass. One couple I know goes probably in that 2-3 times per week range. Another guy I know, tries to go once on each weekend day (but skips every once in a while). Pretty much everyone else falls into the 0-3 times per month.
Is this a common strategy?
It also loosely reminds me of the dotcom era strategy. It doesn't matter if we're not making any real money, we have a lot of users. Surely that can be converted into money somehow. We're worth billions of dollars because we have 300 million users!
I sometimes joke like our first customer cost us $2M but our 2nd was wildly profitable!
Have you ever heard of companies that buy services from other companies under the same VC?
They are a part of a publicly traded company.
As soon as people think it is going bad, they go to squeeze their money out, making it even worse.
That said, they really botched the strategy - they could have bootstrapped the whole thing and slowly come down in price.
Instead, theaters, especially AMC, refused to negotiate and in doing so, shot themselves in the foot. AMC's subscription plan is especially attractive to high-volume users on which it will likely lose money, further, it encourages them to use their free tickets at peak times for the most popular movies in the most expensive formats. When an AMC subscriber in NYC reserves a seat for a Marvel film in IMAX on opening weekend, that's a $20+ ticket that AMC can't sell to a paying customer because the theater is sold out. AMC's profit margin is already quite thin, and getting worse, according to its financial filings. Its CEO is very full of himself but doesn't seem like much of a strategist.
Does it? Were those people going anyway? Would they go if they had to pay one cent more?
They’re just a middleman aren’t they? How are they driving anything or adding any value?
> that's a $20+ ticket that AMC can't sell to a paying customer
But the subscribers are paying customers aren’t they? Do you mean they can’t sell it to another paying customer? So you’re just saying they can’t sell things twice?
I have two friends who I'd describe as average theatre goers. Maybe a movie every 2 - 3 months. Since using MoviePass they both average about two movies a month during 2018. I am not sure how sustained that behavior will be, but at atleast in this early stage it is lasting.
As for the second point, he is arguing they never sell the ticket once. AMC does not get the money if the subscriber does not attend the film. So by fighting with MoviePass (as they have been), they never sell the ticket once.
If you give me free tickets to the cinema I might go. If you say now I’m in the habit can you charge me $1? No thanks not worth it now.
- AMC made a deal with the studios. All movies are accounted for as being purchased for $8.99. AMC then pays the studio 40-60% of that price.
- Thd turnover of AMC movies isn’t that great. I doubt they have more than 8 new movies in a month - even fewer that a person wants to see
- Concessions are a high profit margin product. The average movie goer was already paying around $5.00 in concessions. They will probably pay more now since the movie was “free”.
- the subscription plan is not available for anyone under 18. If you take your kids they pay full price for the movie and concessions.
I can’t find the article now where I saw this. But the $8.9@ per movie price was widely reported.
The studios are not going to sit back and accept just $5 per admission to Black Panther on 3-D IMAX on Saturday night of opening weekend, when that ticket retails for $18-25 (depending on location). Studios usually collect 80-90% of ticket revenue for big movies on opening weekend.
“wouldn’t affect the overall economics”, I assume they meant that AMC promised them that the offset in revenue would be made up by the number of people seeing IMAX or they would make up the difference. Not they are paying full cost.
AMC completely flips the script. Its members can see IMAX films without any premium cost, even on opening weekend. Regular screen, or 3D IMAX for the same cost (both for free)? Of course, let's go see IMAX.
The problem for AMC is that it is now on the hook for paying the IMAX premium. Your article says, vaguely: "the theater chain will ensure there is no reduction in Imax’s overall economics." So it's a no-lose proposition for IMAX but AMC now has to cover the cost of tickets sold to A-Listers.
Here is a link to Regal theaters showing Mission Impossible tonight: https://www.regmovies.com/movies/mission-impossible-fallout/... Notice how nearly every showing says "No Passes"? That's because giving away a free seat to a sold-out show reduces ticket revenue. That's been basic policy at movie theaters for decades. AMC has decided to toss that model out the window.
Nash equilibrium here is Moviepass dying off regardless of communication/collaboration. Introducing a competing service will only speed that up.
Guess it didn't last THAT long. I'm scared for other services with the same pricing scheme.
And it turns out, they don't (or maybe they did but it didn't work). Not everyone is playing 9D chess.
I've been a subscriber for a few years. They waive online ticketing fees and you get $5 vouchers for every $100 spent (among other perks). It's been worth it for me.
1. Get big no matter what.
2. Play as fast and loose with the rules as you need to in order to accomplish 1.
3. Never think about profitability. Profitability slows growth.
All 3 can be summarized as: Never think about anything that slows growth.
I've been considering it since every couple months my wife and I like to see a movie.
He mentioned that one of the most unusual notes they had written was backed by obligations on future projects by the CEO of the company, so if the company folded and the CEO went on to start a new company the hedge fund could convert that defaulted note into a percentage share of the next company. Very creative stuff.
That's a serious landmine for employees who get part of their comp as stock options.
Edit: edited to reflect what I actually wanted to say (future companies instead of current company)
I have declined a number of offers over the years when my research into the CEO showed they were not the people who could get a company over the finish line, and have generally been pretty accurate in the eventual fate of those companies. Correlation isn't causation, but the CEO is the biggest win/lose variable in the mix.
I'm sure it would come up in future investors' due diligence but I'm not sure it's information they're required to disclose to employees.
They won't give it to you of course, which is why employees should always value illiquid private company stock at zero.
Also e.g. "Proceeds from a planned stock sale must also be used to repay the debt." - so they're betting that the company won't fold until a stock sale and it will manage to sell at least a $5+ million of stock; a reasonable "greater fool" bet can be made here when you earn a tidy profit if someone else pays for the company and lose the money if it turns out that you're the last one in the line and there's no greater fool than you.
Some startup founders are hustlers.
The children story by hc Andersen about the emperor without clothes. trying to convince he has clothes comes to mind.
There will be a shake down of real pegususes versus so called unicorns. One magical creature has wings the other does not.
Of course people will be attracted to services selling services below market rate but it is not long term economically sustainable.
Promissory Note: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1040792/000121390018...
8-K Filing: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1040792/000121390018...
> the principal amount of Six Million and Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars ($6,200,000)
Is this a gross mistake? Or am I missing something ?
None of the movies is the US are subtitled. I am a native English speaker, but I really prefer to watch every movie with subtitles. Reading the dialogue while I hear it helps me remember the content of a movie, helps to understand what characters are saying while there are explosions going on in the background, let's me lower the volume for the sake of those around me, and so on.
And then there's the friggin' cell phones... but I suppose this isn't really a US specific problem.
Overseas distributors Asia have less leverage because these markets are generally so much smaller on a dollar value basis that it's not worth the time and effort to push for 90% instead of 60% of a relatively tiny pot. In China, terms are dictated by the government. In Europe, audiences prefer more avant garde films (read: bad films which pretend to be about something) so theaters have significantly more leverage overage distributors.
Wow, sorry that somebody on earth wants to watch something other than comic book movies
Perhaps the same will happen with theaters? The local AMC cineplex isn't doing much for me; the movies it shows are more-or-less disposable, so I'm just as happy to watch them on a small screen at home while I'm working on a hobby project or whatever. OTOH, an independent theater that I used to live by would show classics, Rocky Horror, limited distribution stuff that's hard to find anywhere, and even old silent films with a live orchestra. Consequently, it felt like an integral part of the community to me.
They just want you to purchase their food but seem to realize that every piece of food brought in is not a lost sale, unless that food is something they already sell themselves. Which, in my mind at least, seems reasonable.
A subtitle display is often is available for the hearing impaired. Ask about them on your next visit.
I think this is the standard for the world. In India, we often joke about how the theaters make the real money on the popcorn.
> None of the movies is the US are subtitled.
Yeah, and they shouldn't be. It's highly annoying.
> but I suppose this isn't really a US specific problem.
None of what you said is a US specific problem.
I rather prefer bland food of American theaters when people are sitting in close proximity.
I think people that do not attend movie theaters also do not mind. If they liked movie theaters they would attend.
I have a small apartment with a 70 inch screen in the living room. The three movies a year Hollywood produces I am interested in can be watched from the comfort of my own home in 4k surround sound for $4.99 a few months after they arrive in theaters. I can control the volume, I can pause when I want, I can eat/drink what I want, and I have control over the audience I watch the movie with.
The only advantage a movie theater has is that it receives movies a few months earlier. If movie theaters close that solves that advantage.
Not sure what sort of crappy theaters you have nearby, but the 70 foot screen on my local theater absolutely dwarfs the 70 inch screeen of your TV. Highest-gamut color range, laser projection. Fully tuned Dolby Atmos surround sound speaker system. Reclining, reserved seats. Wine, beer, and heated foods.
Pretty much the only advantage of watching at home is that I can pause and not put on clothes.
Sure, and our sun isn't the brightest star. It's just much closer. Same logic applies.
When you go to the theater you are getting a boxed experience. The seats, the concessions, the atmosphere. Everything is designed with mass appeal in order to move more units. At home I can tune the experience to how I want.
It would be nice if studios can release Blurays at the same time as theaters.
Some of us have just a 14inch laptop screen at home. Just because you are able to fund your movie obsession doesn't mean casual viewers don't want a good experience.
Moviepass plan was to control as much leverage as they could in relation to the movie industry as quickly as possible. Betting they could borrow against this growth. They started producing their own films and doing all sorts of things to own that chunk of the ecosystem.
"Terms of the loan are onerous. Investment firm Hudson Bay Capital Management can demand repayment of more than $3 million of the loan on Aug. 1, and the rest on Aug. 5. Proceeds from a planned stock sale must also be used to repay the debt.
If Helios and Matheson Analytics fails to pay, it will be subject to a 15 percent annualized late fee until it makes good on the obligation. If the company is 48 hours late in its payment, Hudson Bay can require the company to repay the debt at 130 percent."
MoviePass can predict:
When(what movie showing subscribers will attend)
Why(Netflix like recommendations)
How(um, non tech cliche use of “algorithm”)
And then MoviePass can bulk pre-purchase tickets at steep discounts to solve movie theatre excess capacity problem(if it is a problem).
With how tenuous things are now, I suspect MoviePass is NOT Netflix circa 2002.
What bothered me in the US is that I can't buy a beer in the cinema. I always had to bring my own :-)
Movies in my area are $13 so even going to 1, I win