The Verge wrote an article about a spat between MoviePass and AMC. (MoviePass is a $9.99 subscription service that lets you watch up to one movie a day, in theaters.) I'm less interested in the details of the spat than I am in the information that MoviePass aims to turn its profit by selling the data about which movies its subscribers are watching.
It’s been clear for some time that MoviePass isn’t simply trying to find ways to bring more people into existing movie theaters. The subscription-price reduction came after MoviePass sold a majority stake to the data firm Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc., and the change has allowed the company to jump from around 20,000 subscribers to 1.5 million subscribers as of January 2018. MoviePass’ ability to track what movies its customers are watching, and where they’re buying tickets, is valuable data for marketers, advertisers, and distributors. And Lowe has said that selling that data is a major way that MoviePass is going to make money. Not having access to AMC — the largest theater chain in both the United States and the entire world — could make achieving that goal more difficult, since it would be clear MoviePass’ data would be incomplete. There are good reasons AMC was the first chain MoviePass signed a deal with, and that importance is likely why MoviePass is being so aggressive around AMC now.
MoviePass isn’t trying to help movie theaters; it’s trying to use them to capture data it can sell. It isn’t trying to help people see more movies out of some altruistic bent; it’s hoping to spike attendance in the short term so it can expand the pool of people whose data it’s collecting. And when it doesn’t get the answers it likes from a chain like AMC, it’s willing to cut those theaters out completely, regardless of the harm that does to its customers or reputation. While a $9.95 subscription deal may sound great, it’s really only a good deal if it works consistently, at the theaters where customers want to use it. And as MoviePass’ CEO said, those theaters are subject to change.
I want MoviePass to work. Who wouldn't like the idea of watching 30 movies a month for just $10? But it's felt vaguely scammish to me ever since I first heard about it. Knowing that they're selling my data is somewhat comforting: at least now I know what the scam is.
There's even a positive way to look at this. Many websites and businesses sell my data without me feeling like I'm getting fair compensation for it. If I do want to sell my data, super cheap movies sounds like something that's more in the right compensatory ballpark than the norm.