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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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If I Were MoviePass

What MoviePass Should Do Next 

Everyone’s going crazy about MoviePass. Will they survive? Will AMC and the others just launch their own (more expensive versions)? Have they already disrupted the industry beyond repair, to where if they shut down, they’ve devalued the theatrical experience? Even I’ve written about them in the past.
If you’re getting people to ask this many questions, you’re doing something right, which is rare in this staid industry, so kudos to them. I am not a fan of any service whose basic business model relies on you being too lazy to use it enough to realize its full value – for them to survive they basically have to rip you off. But I’ve gotta hand it to Mitch Lowe (CEO) – he realized what its previous owners didn’t – that when you have a subscription business, only two things matter: subscriber acquisition rate (cost to get a new subscriber) and churn rate (how fast you lose them). Supposedly he’s gotten them both close to zero, and it has become the fastest growing subscription service ever.
But seriously, MoviePass is a great idea that has a window of about 12-18 months to either become a colossus or disappear. In addition to adding subscribers, it needs to start getting serious and get even more visionary. Here’s just a few ideas it could try out:
  1. Stop fucking around. First things first. No more screwing your customers by turning on and off the ability to go to a particular AMC. No more not hiring real customer service and then hiring a crisis team because you don’t want to act like a real business. No more changing pricing plans every other day. Either you want to be a real business, with real customers, or you want to keep acting like you got kicked out from clown school. Grow up and be a business and do things right. Be a brand people love and you will crush the field. People so want to love you, so let them, and then take over the world (did anyone there even go to brand school???).
  2. Buy Landmark Theaters. Rumor has it that Netflix almost did this before Mark Cuban jacked up the price. Yes, it would raise operating costs even more, but how awesome would it be to be able to offer 54 some odd theaters where you could not only guarantee seating for your members, but also run all kinds of special gimmicks to get traffic on off-nights, offer concession tie-ins and really put that data to use.
  3. Launch an SVOD service, included in the same low MoviePass price (for now, you can raise it later). I’d buy FilmStruck away from Turner and grow it exponentially. This is probably impossible as I doubt Turner would sell FilmStruck, but it has the best brand and the best titles right now. So if that wouldn’t work, I’d buy Fandor (they already share investors) and merge it with the MoviePass membership. Then I’d invest another $100 Million or so, maybe a lot more, into licensing a lot more high-end and first-run SVOD titles, so that I could offer a MoviePass membership that lets people watch films online or in theaters day and date anytime they want. But this only works if they dramatically increase the quality and quantity of titles available. Fandor and FilmStruck are both too specialized right now for anyone but the most obsessed film buffs, and definitely not for the masses. You need classics, arthouse and Hollywood – you need to be what Netflix used to be about five-ten years ago, but with theaters added on instead of DVDs.
  4. Double-Down on P&A - Invest more in the P&A fund they’ve been messing around with. They’ve already invested in several acquisitions, under the premise that they can push MoviePass subscribers to go see films, and share in the profits from the release of select films. I’d ramp this up via a substantial P&A fund and start rolling-out those member offers.
  5. Darden Restaurant partnership- I don’t eat there, but Middle America does, and MoviePass needs to break into Middle America and away from the Coasts to break big. And the way to do that is dinner and a movie, and that can be done by offering deals to people to go to Red Lobster, Olive Garden and others via MoviePass coupons. They can add deals later with Yelp, OpenTable and others, but Darden is the place to start, and offering a deal that gets their customers a discount on MoviePass, while also getting you a discount at Darden when you show you went to a movie is a win-win.
  6. Data Based Deals. Don’t back down from offering deals based on data. Don’t be creepy – like you were when you said you track my every move. But if you don’t become Facebook and you are transparent with what you do with my data, I am more than happy to let you offer me deals based on my data. If you know I love Wonder Woman – offer me a discount to the next movie in the franchise. If you know I always go to theater Z, offer me a discount to the restaurant across the street. Just ask me to opt in to these deal alerts and all will be ok. And you’ll make a fortune while I save a few bucks. This data is gold to you and me. I’d love to stop seeing a million ads for a movie I already know I want to see someday, and with your data and ability to retarget me a year later to see the film I want to see, that day is just around the corner, so use that data smartly.
  7. Watchlists – I used to run this little failed app called Flicklist. We failed for a few reasons, but not because we saw a need for watchlists. Other’s in this space have this now as well (even IMDB has this now), but MoviePass needs to add a Watchlist and remind you when films you want to see are available near you (or online, once they add that service).
  8. Friends – Another Flicklist idea that would still work, was getting recommendations from friends. MoviePass has hinted already that they want to add ratings that are different than RottenTomatoes. At the risk of de-simplifying their clean interface, they should integrate more closely with your Facebook friends and allow you to follow the ratings of your friends. That’s the crucial missing link in the film world today – people care about their friend’s recommendations for films, not the critics or anything else. It’s word of mouth, but make it electronic.
  9. Hoover up The Data Companies. They already bought MovieFone, which gives them a ton of data. Next, I’d start looking at the other folks who have some great data – many are not technically for sale, but I’d be looking at Atom Tickets; Cinelytics; Letterboxd; Movio (VistaGroup) and anyone else with good audience data analytics.
  10. Film Festival partnerships. Ok, this one isn’t going to make MoviePass a ton of money, and dealing with thousands of film fests isn’t easy, but I’d love to see a day when film fests could offer unsold tickets at a discount – or for free – through MoviePass. They’d fill up a possibly empty theater, promote their overall festival, and possibly gain a future patron. MoviePass would gain a little more street-cred…ok, I can’t pretend MoviePass gains much here, but it would be cool.

Stuff I'm Reading

Doc Cinema is doing just fine in Toronto. Well, duh. Toronto’s citizens drink the cinema pixie-dust, showing up in droves for all things cinema. But while this article doesn’t state it, rumor has it that Hot Doc’s Bloor St cinema is actually kicking the Lightbox’s ass when it comes to actual revenue and success. Whatever the case may be, they’re doing a great job with their festival and cinema, and this article from the Globe breaks down their numbers and their programming strategies. A great read for anyone interested in the state of docs in theaters or arthouse theaters generally.
EyeSlicer Kickstarter. I haven’t supported a Kickstarter for a film in awhile, but I’m a big fan of the team behind the EyeSlicer and they have a new campaign for Season 2 going on now. In addition to making great content and touring it around the country, they’re making a ‘zine and launching a small film fund to help fund radical short films. Gotta respect that. Give em some loot, so they can give it away.
Branded Content is growing faster than advertising, but it’s still a small subset of brand’s overall marketing spend. Approximately $16 Billion dollars is being spent on branded entertainment (versus $550B on advertising more broadly).While this is a small percentage of the overall spend, it’s growing twice as fast as advertising is generally, and much faster than GDP.  The report doesn’t seem to break-down exactly where it’s being spent, but my guess is a fair bit if that is in video content.
This Newsletter:
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Copyright © 2018 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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