The Summer Blockbuster Season and MoviePass

TechCrunch reported today that since last Thursday (5/3) MoviePass’s parent company Helios & Matheson has lost over 63% of its stock value going down from $2.13 a share to $0.79.

For the unfamiliar, during the past 6-8 months, MoviePass has garnered a huge following and uptake in users by promising users access to a movie a day at theaters for a meager entry price of $10 a month.

Basically, at this pricing MoviePass losses money on every active user. If a user watches at least one movie at full price, that user is a cost not profit for the company. Add on top of that maintenance and development costs of the app as well as the physical shipping cost of the debit card – it’s a pretty strange business to be in.

The company claims that it can turn a profit by one of two ways. 1) By aggregating user data and selling it to interested parties. The company has demonstrated somewhat that push notifications and promotion on their platform can drive sales to a particular movie. It can, in theory, than drive movie advertisers to pay them a sum to be promoted to MoviePass users. 2) Somewhat like the gym membership model, they can have lots of registered users and hope they do not use the product – however at $10 a month this is not sustainable by the point above that every user is pretty much a loss.

So what’s in the future for the company? The $10 pricing tier may have to increase. Or additional limitations may have to be added like number of movies users can watch.

I believe that the next 2 to 3 months may be make it or break months for the company. Running at such heavy losses, the best thing that can happen for MoviePass is that Hollywood does not release movies worth watching. In essence, MoviePass has a strange relationship with the movie industry. For one, must-watch movies have to come out for customers to subscribe to the MoviePass service, however they should not be released often so the service is not used.

Here is the list of upcoming blockbusters:

  • May 18 – Deadpool 2
  • May 25 – Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • June 8 – Ocean’s 8
  • June 15 – Incredibles 2
  • June 22 – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • July 6 – Ant-Man and the Wasp

Of course this isn’t all the movies that is being released in the next coming weeks, but Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar (all Disney affiliates) are huge franchises that millions of viewers will go see in theaters.

Time will tell what happens to MoviePass.

Let’s Talk About Avengers: Infinity War

I have now watched the new Avengers movie twice now. And in between that time I have also rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. I mention this because the second viewing made it even more apparent what an achievement in film Avengers: Infinity War is. Typically, the Guardians movies have had a very bright color palette, to bring out the otherworldly-ness of outer space. The most recent Thor movie, Thor: Ragnorok also shifted its colors to be brighter as well as its tone to be more comedic (compared to Thor: The Dark World which was almost “DC” dark).

Now, before I head into some things (and mostly criticisms) I noticed in my second viewing of Infinity War, I want to make fully clear I really enjoyed this movie. In terms of pure spectacle – it is certainly up there with the first Avengers movie and Captain America: Civil War. Obviously, the ending brings a much more somber and serious tone to the movies which makes it a little harder to be superhero excited about – but it was a very bold direction for the franchise which I very much appreciate. Overall the pacing of the movie was great and I must give my full appreciation to the Russo brothers for melding the different film styles and tones of the previous 18 movies into this great culmination.

That being said, the second viewing highlighted several weaknesses that I had not noticed at first viewing. Skipping the obvious criticism of Peter Quill’s decision to completely ruin the plan on Titan, I want to focus on the performance of Zoe Saldana as Gamora in the movie. There are two scenes where I felt she had really missed an opportunity to connect with the audience.

The first was the scene where Thanos plays a recording from the captured Nebula where Gamora is revealed to have lied about not knowing the location of the Soul Stone. This follows about 30 seconds after she has told Thanos that “on my life I swear I do not know where the Soul Stone is”. As the recording is playing Gamora is largely seen just staring in the distance/floor – almost as if she’s spacing out. This really broke my immersion into the scene as there should be some indication of shock and panic, but it almost seems as if there was no recording for Saldana to react to when the scene was being filmed.

The second scene is arguably more important as Gamora and Thanos find themselves on a cliff of Vormir, confronted with the revelation that a sacrifice of a loved one is required to obtain the Soul Stone. I blame the screenwriters more than Saldana for what transpires, as I feel the gloating feels rather inappropriate on second viewing, however I do think that Saldana’s performance lightens the scene unnecessarily. Instead of a bitter “you lose” it came off more as a “haha you lose!”

Also, another plot point that had me thinking was – what was the point of the neutron star realignment not working out the first time? Thanos seems to face very little obstacles during his conquest to obtain the remaining 5 Infinity Stones, however the heroes are faced with an abundance of bad luck. I feel like precious screen time could have been saved if Thor did not have to restart the forge twice.

Speaking of unnecessary scenes, there’s a short scene of the magician/wizard villian (apparently the “Ebony Maw”) flying into space frozen Han Solo, Empires Strikes Back, style. It stood out as B-movie the most.

Overall, the heroes are just very bad at being vigilant in the movie. Vision gets stabbed in the back like he was some pawn and not an all-knowing artificial intelligent being with the Mind Stone as part of his brain. Scarlett Witch gets sucker punched constantly when she could single-handly take down probably all the Thanos’ Children. Gamora almost willingly gets captured by Thanos on Knowwhere. Doctor Strange gets captured very easily in New York early in the movie.

Perhaps I should remember that this is after all, a comic book superhero movie.