The Sundance Film Festival has always been one the premier events for indie film distributors to seek out and acquire new material in the hopes of finding the next film to set the art house world on fire. As the annual Utah film event kicks off this weekend, those distributors are finding out that there is one more potential rival to worry about when trying to buy up a desired film – MoviePass
MoviePass, the upstart subscription-based movie ticket purchasing app, has announced plans to partner up with distributors to co-acquire films through a new subsidiary, MoviePass Ventures. Variety is reporting that the details of the company’s plans are currently “a bit vague, but MoviePass said it plans to release films across other platforms including streaming, DVD and on-demand.” MoviePass will be in Park City at the Sundance Festival today hosting an all-day pitch meeting for various indie distributors.
As a service, MoviePass – which allows subscribers to buy one movie ticket a day every day for a small monthly fee – has grown in popularity over the last several months. Initially launched with a monthly fee as high as $50 a month, the company slashed its price to just $9.95 a month this past summer. That move saw a jump from approximately 20,000 subscribers to its current reported subscriber base of $1.5 million. Those kinds of numbers have led many to question how the company could ever turn a profit, potentially paying out in full movie ticket prices many times more than what it was taking in. But the company is currently owned by the data analytics firm Helios and Matheson, and many assumed that the company was going to somehow monetize the data that MoviePass was collecting about its subscriber’s movie-going habits.
And this is exactly what MoviePass is doing.
Netflix got into acquisition and distribution of new material using data from how its subscribers were using their service to inform their purchasing decisions. The upshot being that they have films that they know subscribers will watch and could drive new scribers to the service as well. MoviePass has been compiling similar data about its users, noting what films their customers are using the service for. In recent weeks it has been reported that MoviePass has contributed towards a higher percentage of tickets purchased for smaller films like Lady Bird or The Shape Of Water than for big blockbuster films like Star Wars: The Last Jedi or Justice League. It looks as if MoviePass has taken the Netflix model and adapted it to be used with their own collected data and will allow that data to play a key role in deciding what films to acquire. While this data analytic-driven model may make it tougher for a quirky, outlier film to get distribution, it could also help other films get in front of appreciative audiences that they might not have gotten to otherwise.