In 1942, during the height of The Second World War, the average price of an American movie ticket was $.27. Today, the national average is $8.12. While many millennials choose to stream their movies rather than actually walk into a theater, three film fanatic entrepreneurs have become the generation’s Movie Heroes by making it affordable for crowds to yet again enjoy the cinema.
Changing the Game for Theaters?
Movie Heroes is an upstart theatrical subscription service founded in 2012 by friends Matt Sconce, Keith Walker and James Nelson in response to the closing of an Oakhurst, California movie exhibitor called The Met Cinema. Unwilling to accept the demise of their beloved hometown theater, Sconce, Walker and Nelson set out to develop a strategy that would save The Met and keep it in business indefinitely.
After some collective brainstorming, the three entrepreneurs settled on pitching a subscription-based theater plan to The Met, entitled “Movie Heroes” as a means of generating enough revenue to keep the exhibitor afloat. In November of 2012, The Met’s landlords agreed to give the millennial film buffs time to build up a loyal customer membership, which would eventually lead the trio to gain ownership of The Met, assume responsibility for the theater’s payments and ultimately keep the local landmark exhibitor in business.
Despite the consumer appeal of “all access” movie-watching, an utterly daunting task required Sconce, Walker and Nelson to gain 3,000 members for The Met by New Years Day of 2013. “It was a crazy month. We attempted every medium of communication: the cover of the newspaper, direct mail, Facebook, it all hit on the same day,” Sconce and Walker tell MiLLENNiAL. And sure enough, against seemingly insurmountable odds, the Movie Heroes platform signed subscriber number 3,000 to its membership service on New Year’s Eve.
Currently, The Met earns more than double the revenue grossed at any time in the theater’s history and its audience attendance has boosted to five times the national average. Supported by such impressive numbers, the subscription based service is now being considered by 70 more theaters, including international exhibitors.
How Movie Heroes Works
The Movie Heroes subscription offers unlimited, yes, unlimited movie screenings to its membership in return for a monthly fee. For $19.95 per month (equal to about two movie passes at the current $8.12 ticket price average), the “Individual” package enables members to watch every movie in their subscribed theater at no additional charge, re-watch any movie for free and bring along a guest for a low member ticket price ranging between $5.50 and $7.00, depending on the age of the guest.
At $34.95 per month, the upgraded “Partner” package (the best value for couples or families) allows two subscribers to see any movie at no additional charge, re-watch movies for free and bring a third guest along at a low member ticket price ranging between $5.50 and $7.00, depending on the age of the guest. Movie Heroes membership applies to all show times and includes all films screening at all participating theaters including first-run, classic, independent and family films. Subscription requires no long-term commitment and the membership can be canceled at any time.
Why Subscription-based Theaters Are Absolutely Worth It
It’s no secret that fewer Americans go to the movies than ever before (about one-third of North Americans don’t go at all). Okay, yes, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) did report that American ticket sale revenue climbed from $10.8 billion in 2012 to $10.9 billion in 2013. However, the 2013 climb in theatrical gross is actually a byproduct of higher ticket prices rather than a boost in audience attendance.
In fact, there was a 1.5 percent drop in audience attendance worldwide from 1.36 billion people in 2012 to 1.34 billion people in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal. Clearly, audiences are losing interest in shelling out $8.12 for a single movie ticket (some 3D and IMAX screenings even total almost $20.00 per ticket with surcharges) and rising ticket prices will eventually fail to compensate for the consistent decrease in annual theater turnout.
To lifelong film lovers such as Sconce, Walker and Nelson, the cumulative financial gut-punch theatrical exhibitors invite by skyrocketing their ticket prices stands second to a more important concern: getting people, especially millennials and their kids, to understand the importance of the theatrical experience.
The advent of in-home streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu (projected to financially outperform theatrical exhibitors by 2017) has unfortunately encouraged an instant gratification effect on children. “There has to be a way for parents to afford to take their kids to the movies. With the Movie Heroes membership, people can walk in with their cards, print out their ticket, see every possible movie they can and not pay at all. Where else can you do that?” Walker insists.
Ultimately, fueled by a conviction that the theater-going experience deserves to be as affordable as it is culturally relevant, the Movie Heroes phenomenon is a vital privilege to the film industry because it simultaneously prioritizes business and creativity.
Although seemingly driven by wildly different objectives, business and creativity truly progress hand-in-hand, each supplying the other with a constant incentive to adapt and evolve. As Sconce concludes, “part of it is to cater to the consumer. But it’s also like making audiences eat vegetables to have a better life. It’s forcing them to experience it the right way.”
To learn more about Movie Heroes and see if they are working with a theater near you, visit MovieHeroes.com.