Moviepass's Unlimited-Movie Service Loses the Unlimited Part

(Bloomberg) -- Filmgoers hoping to sign up for Moviepass’s much-ballyhooed “unlimited” cinema subscription service may have missed their chance.

The startup earlier this month has stopped offering the ability to sign up for a $9.95 plan that lets customers see a movie at the theater every day. Instead, Moviepass began a promotion with IHeartRadio that requires them to pay nearly $30 for three months, with the ability to see four movies per month. Subscribers also get a trial of IHeartRadio’s All Access, a streaming music service.

The question now is whether the original deal will return. Since the change was made on April 13, the industry has pondered whether Moviepass has permanently dropped a defining feature -- one that has roiled Hollywood by threatening to disrupt how people see movies.

In an interview at the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, controlling shareholder Ted Farnsworth and Moviepass Chief Executive Officer Mitch Lowe declined to say when the original offer would return. “It’s just not available right this second,” Lowe said. “We are in a big rotation. Someday it will be available.”

Moviepass has been a hit with consumers, but a money-losing endeavor for shareholder Helios & Matheson. Subscriptions have rocketed to over 2 million since a price cut last summer.

Sharing Popcorn?

Moviepass executives are aiming to make money by selling advertising to studios and persuading exhibitors to share their popcorn and ticket sales revenue. Major cinema chains, such as AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, have already said they don’t want to discount their tickets or share revenue.

Farnsworth and Lowe say the IHeartRadio offer is a promotion and there will be others. “There’s a lot of big companies -- cell-phone companies, other entertainment companies, hotels, businesses -- who all want to partner and do these packages,” Lowe said.

So far, Moviepass has deals with operators of 2,000 screens across the U.S. That includes Studio Movie Grill, an independent exhibitor with in-theater dining, which is a champion of the service. CEO Brian Schultz was an early investor in Moviepass and says the service has helped increase attendance at his cinemas.

Farnsworth said he expects the company to reach the break-even point at 5 million subscribers by year-end. For now, Moviepass is losing about $12 million to $13 million a month, he said.

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