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MoviePass to Relaunch Around Labor Day; Streaming Services Eager to Take Advantage of Big Screen Opportunities

David Satin

After the resounding success of “Top Gun: Maverick” earlier this year, many cinema executives proclaimed that movie theaters were back. However, since then, we have seen chains potentially file for bankruptcy, ticket sales slow, and stock prices crash.

However, despite recent downturns, this has been something of a rebound year for movie theaters, as films like “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Jurassic World Dominion,” and others were able to pull in big box office numbers. But, attendance is still down 33% as compared to pre-pandemic numbers according to Variety, but analysts believe 2023 will bring more films to the big screen, and with them bigger audiences.

One factor that may influence audience’s return to theaters is the return of MoviePass. According to a report by Axios, MoviePass is preparing to relaunch on or around Sept. 5. The new MoviePass will offer tiered pricing, with subscription options at $10, $20, and $30 per month.

At the time of its original launch, MoviePass customers could pay a monthly subscription fee in order to access free movie tickets, discounts on concessions, and more. The app was extremely popular with consumers, but theater chains struggled to make money with MoviePass. When the COVID-19 hit and theaters were essentially shut down, it seemed to signal the end of MoviePass.

The pandemic brought streaming-exclusive films, day-and-date releases, and other changes that made it look as though streaming was ready to take over as the prime landing spot for new movies. A study last year reported that nearly two-thirds of consumers preferred streaming new releases to seeing them in theaters.

However, with theater attendance rising slowly but steadily, many streaming services are eager to take advantage of the big screen. Amazon announced this week that the first two episodes of “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” will get a special theatrical release in certain cities ahead of its landing on Prime Video.

Amazon is not the only company making use of this strategy. Disney is putting “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” back onto 150 IMAX theaters for one week starting Aug. 26 to promote their new Disney+ series “Andor.” Disney Avatar)” from its streaming service ahead of a planned theatrical re-release of the film on Sept. 23, in order to promote the film’s sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which will arrive on big screens this holiday season.

These strategies provide an interesting contrast to HBO Max’s ideology when it comes to theatrical releases. Warner Bros. Discovery clearly believes that its streaming platform cannibalizes the lucrative theatrical audience that its biggest films should draw. That’s at least part of the reason that the studio canceled the streaming release of “Batgirl,” despite the film being essentially finished.

“This idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it,” said Warner CEO David Zaslav of the cancelation.

Streaming services are likely to continue partnering with theaters to promote their content, especially if apps like MoviePass help bring audiences back to the movies. Theater chain executives believe they will, and are enthusiastic about the future again.

“We look forward to Q4 of 2022 and we look forward to calendar year 2023 with absolute glee,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in the company’s Q2 earnings call with investors and analysts. Streaming has certainly changed the theater industry forever, but reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.

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