MoviePass, desperate to prove itself, is adding a bunch of new features

MoviePass isn’t throwing in its hand yet.
MoviePass isn’t throwing in its hand yet.
Image: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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MoviePass still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The movie-ticket subscription service that gets members into one showing per day for $9.95 a month is adding features, including the ability to pay more to see formats like 3D or IMAX, pay for plans as a family, and bring a friend to the movies. The company announced the new options on Tuesday (May 15) when parent Helios and Matheson Analytics reported first quarter earnings. It did not say when they would roll out or what they would cost.

The US-based service, which has more than 2.7 million subscribers, appears desperate to prove its model works after a filing last week revealed the cash it had on hand would last hardly more than a month at the rate it’s burning through cash, and that it might need additional funding. Helios and Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth told naysayers at the Cannes Film Festival that the company has a $300 million line of credit that could carry it 17 months.

Now, MoviePass is hoping to draw new members and stave off the competition with add-ons like the family plan.

There’s currently no easy way for families to sign up, pay for, and check into movies together through the app, which only allows one account to be logged in at a time. Moviegoing really adds up for families, and they could be a big growth area for MoviePass. For a family of four, admission to a single film costs close to $40—the price of a full month of MoviePass for the whole crew—based on the average US movie-ticket price. In an expensive market like New York City or Los Angeles, it could be upwards of $65 for a standard showing.

About 72% of MoviePass subscribers also said they’d like the option to pay more to see a movie in a higher-end format like 3D, the company said it found in a survey. Sinemia, a rival service that launched in the US in February, already has some of these offerings. It sells plans for couples and plans that get members into one 3D, IMAX, or other higher-end format a month, which start at $9.99 a month.

MoviePass’s upcoming “Bring-a-friend” feature aims to prove the so-called “halo effect” it has been arguing it has on admissions, to convince theater owners to cut it deals on the tickets it buys or share in the revenue. MoviePass pays theater owners the full cost of the tickets its members use. In 2017, the company claimed to have been responsible for $256 million in ticket sales—$146 million of which were made by non-MoviePass customers, which MoviePass says subscribers brought or influenced to see the movies.

“MoviePass subscribers are more social and tend to … influence their friends to go to the movies more,” the company said in Tuesday’s filing.

The new options come after MoviePass had to restrict some of its service to cut costs. It barred members from seeing titles more than once ahead of summer blockbuster season and began requiring them to upload images of their tickets before they could see their next movie, to prevent users from sharing accounts with non-members.

Helios and Matheson’s stock rallied as much as 8% to $0.70 in after-hours trading on Monday and shares were trading around $0.69 at the time of publishing. Shares of Helios and Matheson collapsed since its recent closing high of $32.90 on October 11, 2017, a few months after it took a majority stake in MoviePass. It became one of the priciest on the market to short as it took a greater and greater share of the business. It now owns 92% of the company’s common stock.

The subscription and marketing segment that includes MoviePass contributed a $98 million net loss to Helios and Matheson’s bottom line for the quarter ending March 31, according to the quarterly filing.