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If you remember, the rise of on-demand car services such as Uber and Lyft was met with a chorus of existing taxi and cab companies screaming about how they could totally have done that if they wanted to and maybe they would. Drivers were seeing the value of the medallions they’d leveraged themselves and their families to buy drop precipitously, something that’s lead to more than a few tragic incidents driven by desperation and hopelessness. Cities like Chicago have tried to regulate this new classification of service, but the companies always seem to just keep going until the issue is dropped, usually at the same time it virtually shuts down existing players.
That same pattern seems to be playing out with Moviepass. After a week of bad news including how it’s hemorrhaging money the company hit CinemaCon by playing up how not only are new members signing up in droves but that these members are seeing a whole lot of movies, including more during weekdays than they otherwise would have. Even more specifically, they’re heading to theaters to see movies they would have skipped if the financial risk weren’t essentially zero. To put it simply, they went ahead and headed out to Daddy’s Home 2 because it’s not going to cost them anything extra, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Last week’s news that MoviePass, the subscription model movie ticketing service, gave me flashbacks to the 2000 acquisition of Time Warner by AOL. While AOL was by no means a young company at that point, not nearly as young as MoviePass anyway, it was still a case of the upstart buying the legacy company. Moviefone has been around for decades, dating back to when it was a phone service that was so ubiquitous as to be incorporated into a bit on “Seinfeld.”
One quote from MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe in an interview explaining and justifying the acquisition jumped out at me:
Today, many people go to Rotten Tomatoes. And we find our subscribers have a slightly different and, in fact, a more positive rating of movies. We want to be able to do our own presentation for our subscribers from fellow MoviePass subscribers that gives them more reflection of people like them, who love movies.
MoviePass seems to have found common cause with studios, who for years have been waging war against Rotten Tomatoes even as the site itself is partially owned by Warner Bros. Hollywood has complained that negative ratings on the site have tanked their blockbusters, not seeming to realize (or care) that aggregating the reviews of outside critics isn’t the same as actively working against a movie. That aggregation may not be perfect, but it serves as an effective shorthand for people who don’t have the time to spend researching two dozen individual reviews.
The positioning of this goal is what’s most interesting to me. It indicates MoviePass has two goals in mind.