Can Movie Theater Business, After 'Severe Injury,' Look To Past Failures For Future Answers?

It's hard to argue with Bob Iger, former chief executive officer of Walt Disney, as he looks to the future of the theatrical movie business.

When asked about what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the movie theater-chain business, he said quite directly to the New York Times recently:

“I think it is a severe injury that maybe doesn't heal. Not fatal to some," Iger said, adding that consumers “will be much more discerning about what movies they want to see out of the home.”

Doesn't heal? Gulp! Innovations are needed -- perhaps some that seem to have been discarded. Consider MoviePass, that defunct all-you-can-eat/view monthly subscription service for movies.

Before the pandemic, MoviePass positioned itself as Netflix for theatrical movies. Pay a monthly subscription -- $9.95 -- and go to all the movies you want. Sounds great.

But eventually the economics didn't make sense. So it began limiting access -- in terms of the number of movies users could see in a month. And then it started raising prices.



At the same time, MoviePass seemingly undercut movie chains. So competing movie theater chains started up their own more favorable monthly plans. All that put the kibosh on the business, circa 2019.

Now one of the co-founders of MoviePass, Stacy Spikes, tells the Hollywood Reporter that a new iteration of MoviePass is coming, luring moviegoers to fill seats during otherwise slow times of day for theaters. Last November, he bought back the company after it moved out of bankruptcy.

We are not sure whether MoviePass will have another life. But consider where the movie business was a short time after MoviePass departed -- a crushing pandemic.

Now, you might say, what about big movies returning posting decent box-office results in 2021: “Spider-Man”, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”, “Black Widow”, and “F9: The Fast Saga?”

Well, think of those movies’ demographics -- mostly young and male audiences. Looking forward, one might imagine that in drawing back movie theatergoers -- of all ages -- means movie studios/chains need a new financial consumer proposition.

Those high $11 to $14-per-movie price tags may not be what consumers are looking for -- even for a big screen, communal experience. A much smaller business is already in the cards.

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