Despite a reputation for less-than-stellar customer service and a very public spat with theater chain AMC, MoviePass, the subscription movie ticket service, is on pace to reach 5 million subscribers by year’s end.
After running much-publicized specials and doing away with a tiered-pricing plan, the service has become a darling of film-goers in the United States.
Many industry experts didn’t see it at first — how can a company sustain a business model that sells movie tickets for the whole month (currently at $7.95) for less than the price of admission to a single showing?
Looks like we’ve all just found out the answer, courtesy of Mitch Lowe, MoviePass’s CEO. Lowe, a former Netflix exec, recently told an audience at a Hollywood presentation that “We know all about you” and “We get an enormous amount of information,” reports Media Play News.
The widely reported remarks came off to some as creepy and intrusive, even in this day and age of pseudo-privacy. So what personal information are users giving away when they use MoviePass? Here are just some of the things that MoviePass collects, according to Lowe:
What information MoviePass is collecting about you
- Movies you watch, of course
- Payment information
- Home address
- Household makeup, “the kids, the age groups,” Lowe reportedly said
“It’s all based on where you live,” Lowe was quoted as saying. “It’s not that we ask that. You can extrapolate that. Then because you are being tracked in your GPS by the phone, our patent basically turns on and off our payment system by hooking that card to the device ID on your phone, so we watch how you drive from home to the movies.”
In a statement to USA Today after Lowe’s comments, MoviePass sought to clarify its intentions with the data. The company said that it is exploring “location-based marketing” which could include deals such discounts on transportation and coupons for movie-lovers.
“Our larger goal is to deliver a complete movie-going experience at a price anyone can afford and everyone can enjoy,” MoviePass was quoted as saying.
The company’s founder, Stacy Spikes, a marketing entrepreneur, knew that selling movie tickets at bargain-basement prices was no way to run a business long-term, so various revenue streams were baked into the product at its inception.
Back in early 2013, when MoviePass was still raising financing, Spikes was quizzed by the New York Times on how the company could stay afloat while paying theaters full price for tickets.
This is what Spikes said: “Apart from the subscription service, we have three planned revenue streams: advertising, sell-through and data. It’s definitely not a one-trick pony.”
Spikes went on to elaborate on how users’ personal data could be a huge carrot to movie studios and theaters.
“What’s really the beauty of this is the data,” he told the Times. “Just like Google can measure analytics online, we can do that for movie theaters. Ninety-six percent of movie ticket transactions are walk-ups; they’re the equivalent of cash transactions that don’t leave data trails. Our technology lets us say, ‘This is the type of people who are going, this is when they went, this is what time of day it was.’ We can break it up by age, by race, by sex. The only thing we can’t tell you is what they ate for lunch and what their blood type is.”
So, aside from being a movie-ticket reseller, MoviePass is clearly telling us that they are in the data analytics business. Whether they will continue to be transparent about what they’re doing and, more importantly, responsive to customers’ needs remains to be seen.