Earlier today, MoviePass—an online subscription plan that allows users to see one 2D, non-IMAX movie per day for free at most major theater chains—announced that it was drastically dropping its prices, from $50 a month to the frankly insane-sounding $9.95 (i.e., less than the price of a single non-matinee ticket at the average American movie theater). The announcement promptly had the intended effect, sending thrifty movie fans in droves to the company’s site, which promptly crashed. (It seems to now be back up.)
But consumers weren’t the only ones watching the actions of the company, which sold a majority stake of itself this week to data firm Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. in order to fund the drop in price. The AMC Theatres chain has now denounced MoviePass, claiming that its new pricing model is intended as an attack on theaters, and that it will lead to a degradation in consumer experiences.
Per Variety, AMC’s claim is basically that what MoviePass—which buys tickets from the theaters at regular retail prices, and then passes them off to subscribers—is offering is literally too good to be true. “It is not yet known how to turn lead into gold,” the company said in a weirdly philosophical statement, adding, “In AMC’s view, that price level is unsustainable and only sets up consumers for ultimate disappointment down the road if or when the product can no longer be fulfilled.” MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe—an early Netflix exec—admitted earlier today that the company will basically be eating the price of tickets on consumers’ behalf, but that MoviePass hopes theaters and studios will cut it in on increased profits generated from increased concessions and other perks of an uptick in viewership.
So far, AMC’s not biting: The company also stated that it’s looking for legal ways to opt out and block MoviePass from operating at its theaters. “While AMC is not opposed to subscription programs generally, the one envisioned by MoviePass is not one AMC can embrace. We are actively working now to determine whether it may be feasible to opt out and not participate in this shaky and unsustainable program.”