Apple today on the iOS App Store shared a new interview with the founders of MoviePass, touching on the service’s origins and its integral ties to the iPhone and modern smartphone app development. MoviePass debuted in 2011, but grew in popularity last August when the company dropped its subscription price to $9.95/month, which lets customers see one standard 2D film every day in the theater
In Apple’s new interview with Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt — the pair of entrepreneurs who founded MoviePass seven years ago — the conversation eventually focuses on where the idea for MoviePass emerged. According to Spikes, the kernel of the idea that would become MoviePass originated from art-house theaters in New York City that let customers see unlimited movies for a flat donation fee.
He tried to install a similar model for his own Urbanworld Film Festival in the late 1990s, but admitted it was “too early,” and that iPhones, apps, and the advances in development that emerged from this technology were all needed to address the technical roadblocks of such a service.
“The idea was almost too early,” says Spikes. “We didn’t have iPhones and apps to figure out payment and interfacing. If it weren’t for that development, MoviePass would never have happened.”
MoviePass works through the use of both the iPhone app and a paired debit card that is sent to subscribers through the mail after they sign up. If you want to see a movie, you travel to your local theater (MoviePass is supported at over 90 percent of theaters nationwide), select a 2D showtime, “check in,” and at that time MoviePass transfers the exact cost of the showing to your MoviePass card. Then you can buy a ticket at the box office or a kiosk like any normal ticket purchase.
Although the service is growing, many reports in the months following its August price drop have questioned how long the company can keep up the $9.95/month subscription fee (currently $7.95/month paid annually), as well as its public conflict with theater chain AMC. What MoviePass lacks in profit it hopes to make up for in accrued user data, selling a majority stake of itself to data company Helios and Matheson Analytics, which sees “big potential in the type of information it can glean from MoviePass members,” with “no plans to sell user data to outside parties.”
As of January 2018, MoviePass had 1.5 million subscribers. According to CEO Mitch Lowe, MoviePass will hit three million subscribers by the end of April, and turn a profit once four million subscribers sign up for the service.
MoviePass updated its iOS app to support the iPhone X this month, providing a revamped user interface with more emphasis on images from popular films, better navigation, and an updated screen for the check in process. If you want to read the full interview with the creators of MoviePass, you can find the discussion with Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt at the top of the Today tab on the iOS 11 App Store on iPhone or iPad.