But more seriously, as someone who has followed MoviePass since 2011 (I was even on a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival with the OG founder/CEO, something I forgot about until I found a photo of myself on Getty doing a Google search), I’m sad that a startup that probably wasn’t ever going to work flamed our this way, backed by a penny stock company that has all the hallmarks of being involved in something really unsavory (I’m not saying Helios & Matheson are con artists or involved in some sort of money laundering scheme; I’m just saying I understand why people might ask that question).
The truth is, the MoviePass model would never work without partnership with the theater chains (and possibly studios — tho that’s gets a little tricker b/c of the Paramount Decree), and even then, that would only be temporary. Even without Ted and Mitch intentionally trolling the theater chains, AMC and Regal would ultimately figure out that If they were serious about a subscription plan, it would make more sense to build it in house/keep it limited to its own brands, rather than paying a middle man for customers that might not have chain loyalty.
Stacy Spikes, The MoviePass founder and CEO (who was replaced as CEO before the $10 plan launched and was then unceremoniously fired) is a great guy. I was glad to read even all of this insanity has helped him raise money for his next thing.
As for the other clowns, well, I’m thankful for the year plus of entertainment.
This was a classic case of, “we lose money on every sale, so we’re dropping prices to make up for it in volume.” EVERYONE knew this was a bad idea, but enough B.S. thrown into a slide deck convinced enough investors that this was a smart gamble and not a clearly dumb one. Maybe the insiders knew something that everyone else didn’t, or maybe they were pitching a quick exit, or possibly just lying to their investors. Maybe in a parallel universe they pulled it off.
But I’m still thinking how cool it would be to have a collection on vintage/retro T-shirts from failed startups. You could even have a subscription plan if it got big enough, or you could buy “options” from startups to buy their remaining swag for a discount if they ever went under.
If this is your thing, and you happen to find yourself near the Bay Area, I highly recommend stopping by local thrift stores. So many failed startup shirts!
I just... how could this be real?
I wish somebody would start fuckedcompany.com v2.0. I used to hit that site every day. Good times.
Facial reactions to it tell me who was there at the time.
"I got £80million in venture capital for my .com idea and all I have left is this lousy t-shirt"
(Visiting the shop through wayback is quite a trip; see the bottom where they have to carefully explain this newfangled "Paypal" thing https://web.archive.org/web/20030812152554/http://www.geekst... )
1. Sell at discounted prices to grow quickly, capture market share and public image
2. Raise prices to profitability once you have an advantageous position in the market and consumers either love your brand or they have no options to switch to once your prices go up. Alternately for startups, you can sell the business once you have an established position and let someone else worry about profitability, or sell to another big company that wants to kill their competition.
The key in the plan is step 2. However, for MoviePass, there was no way they were going to get to step 2. There was every reason for the theaters to compete with MoviePass instead of making deals with them. Most people only visit one brand of theater (whichever meets the cleanliness/price ratio near their house), and each chain could make their own subscription plan cheaper without cutting a deal with MoviePass. So MoviePass was never going to get to step 2 where they had an advantageous market position, because their one key feature- being able to be used at multiple chains- wasn't compelling. So they cut their subscription to $10/month, which consumers loved, but everyone knew that it wouldn't fix the problem with the business model, and they were basically just giving free movie tickets to consumers with investors money.
I was confused and had to look up the history, because I thought they were only around since August 2017 .
As it turns out, 2017 was when they shifted over to the "one movie a day for $9.95 a month" (paid for at the retail level with no special buy-in or discounts from theaters), which is what made them a household name.
So, just an FYI if were confused like me.
Someone else probably has more details about the clusterfrak regarding all the sudden blackout days and surge pricing and running out of money and denying your ticket after you got to the theater.
 which I remember I was visiting my brother when I started hearing about it
Yeah, from the start MoviePass reminded me directly of that quote attributed to Steve Jobs (about Dropbox) that the company was a "feature", not a product.
It reminds me of The Sharks saying "a product is not a company". It's a virtually meaningless statement.
I love Dropbox (well, OLD Dropbox, I do not like the new desktop app at all) and have been a paying user basically since you could pay to use it (and a general user since it launched in what, 2007? 2008?), but Steve Jobs wasn't wrong. The original service Dropbox offered has indeed become a commodity. Dropbox (like Box before it), has had to pivot into other areas like "collaboration" and has had to change its focus from consumers to small business/enterprise in order to grow, and even then, it's struggling.
I don't actually think MoviePass and Dropbox are that analogous though. Sure, both are middlemen (or "features") and reliant on their potential competitors, but Dropbox's value prop strikes me as better.
MoviePass could have licensed its technology around geo-fencing/ticket-buying to theater chains so they could do their own subscriptions -- the impact wouldn't be as big, but there is a services story there. But MoviePass is always tied directly to the theater chains and the margins there aren't negotiable and won't change. Whereas Dropbox might be reliant to an extent by the OS makers it supports -- and Apple/Google/Microsoft might be able to theoretically build in better native integration with their services vs Dropbox -- but Dropbox can still come up with solutions and be elegant and cross-platform in a way that is better than the platform options. Whereas MoviePass can't do anything unless it wanted to try to start its own theater chain.
In contrast MoviePass was truly 'cross-platfrom' while the new alternatives (A-List etc Al) mostly work within one theater chain.
There is no better evidence that Dropbox is just a feature than for the same price that Dropbox charges for 1Tb of storage, you can get the full Microsoft Office Suite for up to six users and a total of 6TB of storage.
But now the reverse is true and I don't know the last time I used Dropbox.
Office 365 Business Essentials, which is the cheapest plan and comes with 1 TB of storage (as you said) is $5/user/month*6users = $30/month
So same price for the storage, but you also get the web and mobile versions of the Office apps. The desktop versions cost extra. I've gotten along fine the last few months with just web and mobile though.
Edit: I guess having 6 accounts isn't the same as 6 contiguous TBs though.
With Dropbox if you have 1TB and someone shares a folder with you that has 1TB, your total allowed storage is still 1TB. With Office, you can share folders across users and the storage is contiguous.
It would be safe to say that they are "printing cash".
They also leave out in their free cash flow calculation some relevant things (capital leases). Amazon for example provides three free cash flow calculations, Dropbox only the good-looking one.
But this doesn't neglect the fact that they're at 70% GM. They're spending 750M/750M split between SGA and R&D, which means you could basically cut those both out significantly (assuming support/hosting costs are in the COGS) and the company stops growing (on a $1B+ revenue top line) but just starts printing cash. The ~$100M in capital leases is a rounding number then. Not to mention, since their data centers appear to be capital expenditures, it means they have the possibility of extracting even more ROI out of that in the long term.
PS - your article is from 2018 speaking about 2016 and 2017 numbers. Anything updated since? Dropbox has continually increase FCF YoY regardless...
I would argue the exact opposite. This is one of those products where most people just "set it and forget it". As long as the desktop sync continues to work as it does for all major OS's then they most certainly can milk their product for cash.
> I was just pointing out that the numbers are not necessarily as good as they seem and some care is needed to compare it with other companies.
I mean, you can make the argument that any company comparison requires "care" when analyzing it. This is literally why analysts still exist.
> But I'm not sure it is so easy to "print cash".
I think we're getting bogged down in semantics here. For most users of Dropbox, it's literally just a file sync - that's it - and it already works fairly flawlessly (compared to their competition at least). Which means at 70% GM it requires very little effort to continually advance the product. ~$700M alone is being used to continually fuel growth.
Q: Do you know when NetSuite turned a profit for the first time?
A: 2009 Yes that 2009, when the economy went to shit. Weird huh?
 - https://a16z.com/2015/05/15/a16z-podcast-why-saas-revenue-is...
iOS and MacOS have changed how they have handle third party syncing a few times over the past 4 or five years. Microsoft and Apple are both adding features to make Dropbox unnecessary and Microsoft has a large enterprise and consumer marketing budget to chip away at Dropbox’s profitable enterprise base.
While Google isn’t as entrenched in the enterprise as Microsoft, it is becoming more entrenched in education and it gives away a lot more storage for free.
If you think any software maker can just sit on its laurels, see what happened when MS tried that with IE.
Servers breakdown, while we don’t have any statistics of how often Dropbox needs to replace hardware, we do know how often hard drives fail at scale from Backblaze’s frequent reports.
Yes and no. They are trying to grow the product breadth (collaboration for example) so they can upsell enterprise businesses. That's where most of the R&D is going.
> Do you also think that the rest of the tech industry could cut their R&D and stay relevant?
Yes - easily. I've personally worked with over a hundred of them and you'd be shocked to understand how sticky software is once it's been implemented. This is the dirty little secret you never heard about when discussing software valuations.
> Servers breakdown, while we don’t have any statistics of how often Dropbox needs to replace hardware, we do know how often hard drives fail at scale from Backblaze’s frequent reports.
As I understand it, this is where Dropbox's major capital expenses are going right now. I don't have any information on where it hits the P&L and if it's calculated in the CF statement. However, having worked with similar businesses before and calculated pro formas, there is very clearly an ROI (similar to AWS, Google and Facebook all building out their own data centers).
> Are they profitable?
Profitability isn't the end-all metric for a company. Amazon famously circles around the profitable/not-profitable line frequently and few people have doubts about Amazon's viability as a company.
Dropbox reported ~20% growth in revenue YoY and seems to have dumped most of that into R&D (you can see their R&D costs have grown by nearly as much as their revenue has). Other operating expenses remain mostly the same.
> There is no better evidence that Dropbox is just a feature than for the same price that Dropbox charges for 1Tb of storage, you can get the full Microsoft Office Suite for up to six users and a total of 6TB of storage.
Ok, but a growing subset of people clearly choose Dropbox. There are huge advantages to being a first mover that are sometimes insurmountable, even for gigantic companies. The zune was in many ways "superior" to the iPod, but we all know how that story ended.
I dont agree with this common saying. Amazon was founded in 1994, IPO in 1997, and made a profit by 2003. Amazon's philosophy is to reinvest money, thus they swing between profit/loss. Amazon went from selling books online to everything online + AWS + Echo + Go Store, etc etc. So it took Amazon to make a profit, but they truly were growing, not paying people to buy movie tickets.
Conversely, usually when people say 'look at Amazon' when talking about profitless companies, we are talking about companies that spent a decade + private, IPO with huge valuations, slowing growth, and huge losses with no profit in site.
Dropbox for example, founded in 2007 and IPO'ed 11 years later with an 8 billion valuation. A 100$ investment in Amazon would have yielded 127k$. To give you that kind of growth, dropbox would have to reach a market cap of 10+ trillion. This is a huge problem because people are treating these unicorns like growth companies, when their best years are behind them and with their valuation, its mathematically impossible for them to have the huge growth that companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Google had.
I think rules need to be enforced / changed to prevent companies from staying private so long. This shenanigans is going to cost generations saving for retirement significantly.
> This is a huge problem because...
Why is it a problem?
Suck it up; if you’re an investor do your due diligence, just like with any other company.
But they admitted that they didn’t sign up as many new customers last quarter because they didn’t have big new releases to attract customers.
They are still taking on billions of debt for both licensing deals and to create new content while their major upcoming competitor - Disney+ - has multiple income streams from their content and most of the cost of content has been repaid multiple times by the time it reaches Disney+.
Streaming is also a feature and not a standalone product for Amazon, Disney, AT&T and even Apple. None of these companies live or die based on their streaming product, it’s just a check mark.
Most of Amazon’s profit comes from AWS where they do have economies of scale and relatively high marginal profits. What are the chances that Dropbox will ever find a high margin profitable pivot? What is their customer acquisition cost? The lifetime value of a customer? What type of pricing power do they have.
Everyone loves to point at Amazon as evidence that all of these money losing companies will be highly profitable one day but it hasn’t happen.
Let’s not forget that out of all the big tech companies - Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft. The only one that wasn’t profitable before they went public is Amazon.
Other operating expenses can’t remain the same. Storage cost real money on a marginal basis unlike software (Microsoft) and search (Google) which has close to zero marginal cost.
I always thought that was selling ("aggregated") access to user's files.
This is basically accounting fiction. Amazon is profitable; they just reinvest their profits so aggressively that they’re writing off tomorrow’s expenses against today’s revenues.
Profitability is a proxy for "going concern" in most of the companies including Dropbox.
That said, there are a fair number of would-be products that seem fairly clearly destined to be a component of another product.
Of course Dropbox is doing All. Of these because it's a company that has to grow.
with 5.2B quarterly loss and no path to profitability, natural market, sure, sure.
You can probably sell it to the HBO prop dept for next season of Silicon Valley for $$$$$
(To be clear the joke is he's a moron but everyone listens to him because he has money)
I think I'll get a Rust T-Shirt and save it for a few years. It'll be like the "Oberon" T-Shirt I still have.
This ignores countless counter-examples where entrenched companies completely missed the boat, despite plenty of time and obvious advantages. Although I understand how people could think this, it's how most business is taught to people for some reason but price competition and existing prior competitors (surprisingly) doesn't matter nearly as much in the disruption game as they do among big businesses in stable markets. But people tend to serve business advice as one-size-fits-all.
This seems to be more about the weird nature of the film marketplace than matters of competitive advantage.
I don't claim to be an expert at many things and I'm far from the smartest person in the room, but MoviePass hits my sweet spot because it encompasses the two industries I've studied/spent my career/life around, and the math for MoviePass just never works out.
Initially, the goal was to buy discounted tickets or have partnerships with the theater chains. The theater chains balked and refused to work with MoviePass, which led to the hack of using a pre-paid credit card and buying tickets at RETAIL prices. AMC and MoviePass actually did have a partnership at one point (2015) in a few select cities but if anything, all that partnership did was give AMC the data it needed to know how it could create its own service.
MoviePass thought it could leverage the theaters by claiming it was responsible for a large percentage of box office traffic -- but all its data really did was show that people really liked spending $10 a month to see unlimited movies. None of MoviePass's attempts to show that it was a market maker in terms of pushing subscribers towards a certain film worked (it didn't help that the films that studios were willing to advertise via MoviePass were often not very good) and MoviePass's brief sojourn as a film financier/distributor itself basically encompassed Gotti starring John Travolta (a truly bad film that no other major studio would distribute -- it should have gone straight-to-video/streaming/whatever -- which was the original plan. The producers literally bought it back from Lionsgate b/c Lionsgate smartly realized it was not worth spending money on putting in theaters), which was a flop -- and to add insult to injury, a flop whose audience was almost entirely MoviePass subscribers (meaning MoviePass basically paid for the film twice).
Again, I'm not making any larger statements about disruption. But this business, in this industry (which it should be noted, has fairly inflexible pricing and the theater chains themselves are largely only profitable because of concessions), with this ridiculous business plan was never, ever, ever going to work. And even if Regal and AMC had partnered with MoviePass, Regal and AMc would just have taken those lessons and launched their own loyalty subscription services.
Is chain loyalty a thing with movie theaters though? Don't people decide what movie to watch and then pick a theater?
At best I think that in locations with lots of choices (> 2) there may be a specific theater a customer doesn't like. But even then... how many customers are there that will absolutely refuse to go to theater X even if it means missing out on "super amazing film Y"?
I wonder if the real problem was that MoviePass's main demographic might have been people looking to go to the movies on the cheap. These folks aren't buying popcorn, candy, and pop... the main (only?) profit center for theaters. In the end all that's been accomplished is filling seats at a loss (or minimal profit).
Hah, I did this with my Amiga t-shirt the day Commodore went bankrupt. (Except for the part about buying the shirt it in anticipation of bankruptcy.)
EDIT: Ah there’s a SCOTUS case that would prevent them: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Paramount_P....
Slightly related -- the United States v. Loews case , which bans block booking, would make movie bundling difficult for a MoviePass like company too.
I'm actually considering the subscription service provided by the big players, so they did change the industry somewhat.
Now you've got me wondering, just how much wealth has been redistributed back to the general public from failed VC backed schemes over the last decade?
(I mean, I don't seriously wonder this, just hyperbolically)
Theranos did a shitty job being a normal lab and lied about it, a startup that wanted to fake it until they made it could first setup an excellent normal lab, and then with customer consent, run their new lab processes in parallel with the excellent normal lab tests.
I suppose I'm stretching the definition of faking it a little far there, but I think it sort of follows the ethos.
I also don't go to the movies enough anymore. I watch so much on flights now that more and more things are moved into the "I'll just watch it on a flight in a few months" territory. The flights themselves being pretty cheap or free - subsidized by the merchants that paid for my points.
So you know, you might be missing some critical scenes in some movies. :)
I saw a censored and then uncensored version of Mystic Pizza on the two flights of a round trip with the same airline once. The editing quality is not great; the censored scenes were pretty confusing.
Which effectively means they didn't tell you. :)
By the fact that I observe all the people sitting next to me on the plane watch in-flight movies, I'd say they are a popular option.
(Or is this just because in Europe... well, because those criteria mean a flight out of Europe.)
The long haul flights usually have screens.
any entertainment I try to bring myself "just in case" really just ends up taking up space/weight and not being used
last decade it felt like a luxury to bring my laptop/device for travel, this decade it is a burden if it happens at all.
A tolerable risk. Non-US airlines have wildly different criteria for this such that it really hasn't been in issue.
Other times I was sufficiently entertained and followed the plot well enough to not care
Huh. Never knew that.
Technically, it's paid for by people paying credit card interest and fees, and everyone who doesn't buy things with a credit card, thereby getting nothing for the inflated prices that merchants pass on to you.
And, for a very long time, I thought, well, that's stupid, because global warming is about the total amount of CO2 on the whole planet, not personal behavior and virtue. It's not a religion, after all.
Somehow, everything's reversed, but does this mean that Gore is now a fiend? Or were people right the first time, that it's not about carbon being sinful?
A pound of CO2 is a pound of CO2, isn't it? Every time people make a comment about some specific activity, what I hear is "this pound of CO2 is more sinful than that pound of CO2". Or "everyone should get to emit equal amounts of CO2". I don't think these have anything to do with preventing climate change.
I really, really, don't believe it's wrong or contradictory for "liberal elites" to fly around on their private jets and still try to stop global warming.
But that means I also don't see why people have turned to condemning Joe Blow in the same way. It's not flying that's the problem. You ban flying, and economics would allow the fossil fuel to be burned some other way. You mandate electric cars, or anything else, and you're not doing the one thing we need to do, which is to ration all carbon emissions. All carbon is equal!
Maybe we do need to switch to electric cars or stop flying, but I'm saying we can only find that out by first making emitting CO2 more expensive and then letting the market work. It's not that it's a "nicer" solution that's more "free market", it's that there is literally no other option. We are looking for car keys under a streetlight, when we know they were dropped in the sewer.
We eventually moved somewhere that didn't have a MoviePass theater around, and got AMC Stubs A-list for $20/mo, so it definitely changed our behavior.
<Sarcastic/ironic voice> ....while someone else foots the disruption bill....
Sounds alot like Uber. Pun intended
There is a reason why Uber is losing so much money and why Drivers are barely able to make a living.
I'd bet money that anyone that downloaded the MoviePass app will shortly have just about aaaaaaaall of their data sold
> “It’s about the data,” said Ted Farnsworth, chief executive of Helios & Matheson Analytics Inc., which owns a majority stake in MoviePass.
At some point consumers have to get some of the blame here, right?
I'm not being facetious here. I actually think that contract law has significant problem in that it assumes a level of informed consent the average person cannot give when dealing with corporations that have specialized legal teams. It is one thing for two neighbors to enter into a contract since it is a meeting of near equal minds. But the average individual and the entire legal team of some large corporation? I would find a child entering into a contract with an adult to be more likely to have informed consent.
Oooooh, you fell hook line and sinker for corporate PR.
> Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days while she underwent skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment.
> Liebeck didn’t want to go to court. She just wanted McDonald’s to pay her medical expenses, estimated at $20,000. McDonald’s only offered $800, leading her to file a lawsuit in 1994.
Right, but she was scalded by hot liquid. It is customary for hot coffee to be pretty hot, even close to boiling. I don't see how that was "corporate PR", or how McDonald's was at fault. The fact that others held coffee at 140 and McD held it at 180 doesn't sound like a reason it owed six figures.
> She just wanted McDonald's to pay her medical expenses
Right, but she spilled the coffee. Why is McDonald's liable for her slip-up? The jury decided that the warning on the cup wasn't large enough, but I'm not sure that makes sense as people habitually ignore warnings any way. They're printed on so many things that it's hard not to. I doubt a larger warning would have made a difference.
This is like some one purchasing a knife, cutting himself, and complaining that the manufacturer is at fault because there was not a sufficiently large warning that "knife is sharp".
Drinking coffee at 180 degrees could kill you.
Not cooking pork to 165 could kill you. I still think it's BS to sue a pork mfg.
- retain control of data
- clear vs GDPR
- proprietary knowledge developed
- hard to replicate
- harder to set up
- bigger up front risk for you
Moviegoers would really only be able to take advantage of less popular movies and/or showtimes because buying the ticket so late risks a sellout or bad seats (might not be able to sit near friends). The income would mostly be gravy / found money for publishers because it would mostly be people who wouldn't have gone otherwise. Moviepass might have been able to work out some sort of rev-share based on number of tickets sold so they could guarantee some income from each member's monthly payment. Hell this might even get you over the hump into AOL / Planet Fitness territory where you're almost entirely sustained by revenue from people who forgot they're paying for their subscriptions (I assume this was always the ultimate goal for Moviepass).
I think the theater+restaurant combos would actually be ideal for the Moviepass model since they can offset the cost of the ticket with food/alcohol sales. They could even limit it to 3 movies/wk like AMC and probably do well. The theater+restaurant near me offers a $5 ticket Tuesday promotion and most showings throughout the day are full. If they charged me $25/mo I’d definitely pop in 1-2 times a week to watch a movie while I eat a meal.
All it seems like Moviepass did was prove that there was a market for subscription based movie tickets.
> MoviePass notified subscribers that it plans to close down the service because its “efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date.”
Pay $40 a month to attend 3 concerts, sporting events or events in general. I used it here in the DC/Baltimore area for concerts..live it. Though do wonder how me paying $13 for a concert ticket vs. $50 to $60 they'll stay in business?
It's called InWeGo...available in select US cities.
Concerts and events have high fixed costs, so, like airlines, it's typical for them to engage in price discrimination to maximize profits. If there's assigned seating, they charge more for the best seats. But they also want the best fans (usually high-energy teenagers) to have access, so they need a way to get cheap tickets to those people.
Plus, if you go to a concerts or events from cheap tickets, maybe you'll learn to like concerts and events and end up being more likely to splurge on expensive tickets later. (Many symphonies and orchestras offer discounted tickets to students, youth, or under 30/40 for this purpose.)
Where you considering working their or something? Otherwise how is not purchasing something that's undervalued a train wreck?
Probably my favorite startup yet. If you're going to burn through millions of VC money, may as well let everyone come along for the ride!
Someone should really make a movie on that one.
Actually I found this on Wikipedia:
The history of the company has been used as an academic case study in the study of corporate governance and ethics and also as the subject in 2019 National Geographic's docudrama miniseries Valley of the Boom.
I wonder if people are more careful about this nowadays?
I suppose even if they are sloppy, a modern workstation probably has an encrypted filesystem so the buyer is probably not going to get anything off it.
A: When profits start to matter.
A lot of these companies could be bought by a huge tech company, but they can’t all be aiming for that, can they? Upwork and Fiverr likely never will. Zoom is [a bit] profitable.
For other hyped startups like Airbnb and Palantir, they aren’t angling to get bought out by an FB or Google either.
For example Fortress (now owned by SoftBank) cut a deal for Theranos’ IP: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/theranos-closes-deal-with-...
I stopped using it as soon as they started adding tons of gimmics and IFTTT qualifiers
AMC, the largest theatre chain in the world, has a successful subscription service also limited to its chain.
Original link with ad-block paywall: https://www.businessinsider.com/inside-story-moviepass-rise-...