A colleague brought my attention to an article that came out in Variety with a double-edged sword of a headline: “Box Office Hits Record, But Number of Frequent Moviegoers Drops 10%.”
Childish puns aside, I’m willing to bet that the big “but” in that sentence caught your eye.
According to the article and the MPAA, “frequent moviegoers” is defined as someone that sees at least one movie a month. So 10% less people in 2015 decided to spend not even a SINGLE time at a movie theater each month.
Overall attendance and revenue were boosted, which is great, I don’t want to take away from that. It’s exciting news, but that success was attributed to unicorn movies like Star Wars: the Force Awakens and Jurassic World. Those movies’ astronomical numbers (the two combined made up 14.3% of the 2015 domestic total) pushed up the cumulative receipts for 2015.
And while the past year has been positive, it’s by no means a trend. Check out the graph below from Box Office Mojo of the box office grosses by year.
The only consistent pattern in the past five years? Ticket prices going up, with the biggest jump happening from 2014 to 2015.
Whether this is a strategy by the industry or a natural function of the economy doesn’t matter too much, but I would argue this price point is what is making a monthly movie commitment a tough pill to swallow for people.
And that’s where MoviePass fits in.
Compare that first headline to this one run just a few weeks ago by the same author, same publication: “MoviePass Study: Theater Subscription Service Boosts Attendance by 111% (EXCLUSIVE).“
No “buts” there!
To give you a quick breakdown, a third-party company called Mather Economics analyzed MoviePass member behavior relative to theater rewards program members, and they found that our members go, on average, 111% more times per month.
Based on my experience as a member and employee, I think I know why.
When I signed up for MoviePass before joining the team, I wanted to see more movies in theaters. Period. I love movies, I wanted to be more aware of things out now instead of waiting for a digital release, and I wanted to push myself to see things that I may never have paid the $15 New York City ticket prices for on my mid-twenties budget. I saw the subscription service as a godsend: I’d see three movies a month and everything after that was paid for. Boom, no-brainer.
At the essence of the subscription, MoviePass service lets you see more for less. Anecdotally, I know from experience that MoviePass was a solution to my financial risk of theatergoing, and now, based on the report from Mather, it appears I’m not the only one with that aversion to risk.
And hey, remember when that report for 2015 revealed there was a drop in frequent moviegoers aged 18 to 24? Well, it did. And the article about MoviePass? 75% of members are 18-34. Seems like younger moviegoers are liking what we’re doing, and being one myself, I totally get it. It gives you a freedom that you just don’t have buying your tickets one at a time.
The study also indicates MoviePass can be beneficial not just to passionate moviegoers but also to exhibitors through increased theater attendance and concession buying. And extending my anecdote, I can see MoviePass also benefiting studios by allowing members to see movies they may not have seen otherwise. Wins all around, by my count.
The core to my comments on the 2015’s box office numbers and ultimately why I wanted to write this article is a belief in a healthy, diverse theatrical landscape that movie-lovers have access to. Higher ticket prices force moviegoers to limit their exposure to riskier titles, and in turn, we will start to see less time and energies put in to smaller movies with less blockbuster potential.
There is a different option for a path that benefits all parties: a cinema world that is more stable, in which people can experience both the blockbusters and the smaller scale films that may get lost in the fray, losing out due to lack of marketing budget or broader appeal. I’m not the only one that believes a subscription company like MoviePass can help make that happen, and if for some reason it isn’t, I hope another solution comes along.
As a lifelong movie-lover, that’s the world I want to live in.
If you agree, I’d greatly appreciate it if you share the article with your friends, and please comment below if you have any thoughts!