View this email in your browser
Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Weekly musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

In This Issue

Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media


Past Newsletters


Keep Up With Brian:


MoviePass Redux

November 17, 2021

A long time ago, in what seems like a galaxy far away, there was a savior for the film business as we knew it, and its name was MoviePass. I shit you not. MoviePass was one of the best things to happen to the movie business; that is, until the drunken sailors crashed it upon the shores with shitty business practices. That is pretty much what happened. I visited the office at the height of their craziness and I’d never seen more booze in an office in my life, outside of movies about the before times. It was a great idea, flushed down the drain alongside the remnants of their many booze-soaked bad ideas. But before that happened, it was a plucky upstart that was moving towards a real business model under the leadership of founder Stacy Spikes. And just this past week, he’s bought back the brand and seems to be relaunching it  - and the movie business as a whole should cross its fingers that he can work his magic again, and maybe, just maybe, give this business a fighting chance for survival. 
It’s hard to remember that before MoviePass started offering everyone free movies for one ridiculously low price – and having forced tech melt-downs as it couldn’t keep up with the cash-flow needs – it was a beloved service. I mean, its fans were legion, and they would cough up more money and do anything they could to try to keep it alive. And it spawned crazy behaviors, like people using it to go see the same movie gazillions of times, and it drove a ton of traffic to movie theaters. People in the business argued about it, but audiences loved it. Many arthouses became customers, and while they had to force their way into the AMC/Regals of the world, it worked so well that both of them copied it, as did many other chains (some have put these programs on hold during coronavirus, but they’ll be back). It was a success in many ways. 
But the problem was always in figuring out the right price point – how do you make it cheap enough that people would subscribe, but not so cheap that you lose your shirt when you reimburse theaters for tickets? Well, IMHO, Spikes was en route to finding the right price point but hadn’t done it yet, and the new owners (Spikes was forced out after selling the company) focused (smartly) on subscriber acquisitions and lowered the price… but too far (the stupid part). It was too cheap to remain sustainable. But while Spikes tells TechCrunch and others that the price was the only problem, it was worse than that. They also spent money like the drunken sailors I mentioned above – acquiring movies that weren’t the best fit, paying for marketing that alienated the theaters, when they should have been their best friends – they both wanted to save movie-going, remember… - and myriad other bad decisions that cost money they didn’t yet have. 
I wrote about it a few times, and dedicated an entire post to what I thought they should be doing back in April of 2018. A good friend of mine was brought in to revitalize their marketing, and he was focusing on repairing theater relationships (the photo above is from that time, I believe) and getting the non-cinephile to use it – but it was too late, and by September of 2019 it flamed out in glorious fashion – a death-spiral not to be equaled in this business until... just one year later, by Quibi. 
But Spikes is back. And while plans remain a bit unclear, I’d bet my money on his ability to restart the brand and turn it back into something significant. As he explains to TechCrunch, it will probably involve some merger with his other start-up, PreShow, which was going to allow people who watched ads to get discounts and deals for video-games, movie-going, VOD and other things. (I got a private tour of the beta, and it was pretty cool). Whether he uses the brand, or just the underlying ideas, the movie theater industry should embrace his return, and we should all hope he can make it work. (And brands should watch this space, because there's a golden opportunity to sponsor films here).
Because let’s face it – things have been grim. Anyone fighting to bring more butts to seats at movie theaters – or even to get them to watch anything other than a TV show on streaming – is doing God’s work. I can’t wait to be writing about what happens next with MoviePass, and imagine it won’t be long before I am posting an update.

Stuff I'm Reading

The Ethics of Accepting (Some) Film Funds: Being someone who works at the intersection of brands and films, I get asked about the ethics of accepting brand funding quite often. I always point out that it doesn't work for every film, and never for certain types of films, but that people should consider the ethics of accepting funds from almost anyone. I mean, let's face it - people gladly take Rockefeller funding (which I used to help disburse) without thinking much about the ethics behind how that money was made. But sometimes, you need to think really hard about who you will and won't take money from, and that seems to be the case with a new film fund in Australia - Minderoo Pictures, which was founded by the second richest person in their country. I don't know much about this family or the fund, but this new article by filmmaker Alex Kelly in ScreenHub makes a good case for why this money might be ethically tainted, and seems to present a good way of analyzing the pros/cons of any funding source. I think it's worth a read (h/t to Mynette Louie who posted this in FB, which caught my attention). (BN)

NFT Wars Begin: This was predictable. Miramax is suing Tarantino over his plans to release NFT's from Pulp Fiction, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Expect more of these lawsuits as artists fight studios and distributors over who has the underlying rights to novel new ways of exploiting NFT's from past films, or future ones. I've always said that a one-of-a-kind Singin' In the Rain video ringtone(now more possible via NFT) would be worth millions, but now we'll find out who gets to cash in on that.(BN)

Amazon will let you easily share clips from its Prime Video Content: Amazon announced that iPhone users with the Prime Video app will now be able to share 30 second video clips of their choosing from a selection of Prime Video originals with their friends and on social networks. While Amazon will be capitalizing on the possibilities of free, organic marketing, its competitors aren’t entertaining this route: Hulu, for instance, doesn’t allow subscribers to share clips or even screenshot any of its content. The takeaway here is, as The Verge’s Mitchell Clark puts it, “for original shows made by the streaming services themselves, it feels like a missed opportunity to let people do marketing for them.” (GSH) And further, it's stupid that every studio and distributor doesn't demand that Prime and other services institute this for their content. If you aren't shared, you don't exist. (BN)

Branded Content
Three Trends In Brand Storytelling: Reilly Parkhill of Brand Storytelling writes for Forbes about three major trends as seen in recent brand storytelling, which she's up to speed on from being involved with their programming for the upcoming 2022 Brand Storytelling Theater. The trends are: Calls for Equity and Justice; Adventure and Outdoors; and Brand as Hero. Check out the whole story. 

What F*d Up Gen X's Great Music Around 1996? The Telecommunications Act of 1996, that's what, and this Twitter thread by Patchen Mortimer lays down the entire argument for how that led to consolidation that ruined alternative rock, reduced the impact of women in rock, and more. Def worth a read. (h/t Bilge Ebiri) (BN)

Why Video Games Will Drive Mass Adoption of Blockchain and CryptoTor Constantino, writer for The Ascent, argues that video games will drive the mass adoption of blockchains and cryptocurrency. While non-blockchain gaming is exploding (it’s expected to grow to $268.8 billion in 2025), “more than half (58%) of 197 video game developers surveyed in the U.S. and U.K. are now beginning to use blockchain technology” and “47% [of developers] claim to have already begun incorporating NFTs in their games.” Why are developers pushing blockchain and crypto? For starters, research indicates that gamers find that the new tech “allows for innovative and more interesting gameplay” and “secures value for players by keeping money in the game.” You can expect online multiplayer games like Robliox, Fortnite and Minecraft, among others, to lead the charge. (GSH)

GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
Like This Newsletter? Subscribe & Past Issues
Copyright © 2021 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.