Stacy Spikes has managed to regain control of MoviePass, and this time, he’s not letting us bankrupt him. On Thursday, the founder of the previously defunct moviegoing service announced the business would relaunch this summer, and while the logistical details are still fuzzy, he said it would run more like a co-op, with virtual currency and tiered membership plans footing the bill.
Spikes — who founded MoviePass in 2011 but was pushed out of the company after it was acquired by analytics firm Helios and Matheson in 2018 — announced the second coming of the company at a presentation at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
MoviePass originally allowed subscribers to see a movie a day for a flat monthly subscription rate, but once it was acquired by Helios and Matheson, that rate dropped from about $30 a month to $10, which is less than the cost of a single movie ticket in most markets. Naturally, the company hemorrhaged a ton of money, and announced its shutdown in 2019. The following year, Helios and Matheson filed for bankruptcy.
While you can bet MoviePass 2.0 will cost more than $10 a month, Spike didn’t reveal his plan for pricing his subscription service. He did, however, announce that the service will work on a tiered system, and it will also offer rolling credits that can be traded or shared with other people.
But the biggest head turner of the presentation came when Spikes said users could watch ads in order to earn more movie credits. And by watch ads, he really means watch ads: Your phone camera would track your eyeballs to make sure you’re paying attention to the screen and not simply waiting for the video to end. It sounds freaky, but Spikes’ plan is ultimately not surprising when you remember that MoviePass’ original rationale for offering such cheap subscriptions was that the company would earn money by selling its users’ data to studios. Ask not what you can do for the surveillance state (uphold capitalism), but what the surveillance state can do for you (see a movie a day for a fraction of the price). Maybe that’s the help the cinema industry needs after the pandemic sent ticket sales spiraling.