EXCLUSIVE: Cinemark’s Movie Club, the first operator-backed subscription program, has surpassed 350,000 active members, the company announced today. CEO Mark Zoradi told Deadline that MoviePass deserves at least some credit for its rapid growth.
The industry knives are out for MoviePass, whose chaotic 2018 has sparked industry concerns about its potential to embitter millions of movies if forced to shut down. On this point, Zoradi notably differs from AMC CEO Adam Aron, who has publicly argued with the startup in recent months, calling its model unsustainable. “I’m most optimistic” about the impact of MoviePass, Zoradi said. “It helped raise awareness of subscription cinema.”
Movie Club differs from MoviePass — and AMC’s recently launched A-list Stubs — in significant ways. For $9 a month, it offers members a free movie, plus guest ticket discounts, concessions, and other bonuses.
Cinemark, the third U.S. exhibitor, sees the club as a lure of core clientele at a tricky time for cinema given the proliferation of other entertainment options. About 45% of Movie Club members were not previously part of the operator’s existing loyalty program, and their spending now accounts for about 6% of the total box office at Cinemark. The circuit reported record second-quarter revenue and strong profit numbers this morning due to a surge in attendance in the spring and summer.
Unlike other plans, Movie Club members keep their credits indefinitely – if they cancel, they can still use the credits for up to six months, unused credits in a given month rollover to subsequent months. Even so, 75% of the credits granted since the repayment have been repaid.
Zoradi, who came to Cinemark in 2015 from a senior international role at Disney, has seen first-hand the popularity of subscriptions in the UK and France. In February 2017 — months before MoviePass launched its unlimited plan, he notes — he led an internal team developing Movie Club. The aim was not only to take inspiration from successful plans overseas, but also to draw inspiration from the services customers interact with in their daily lives, including mobile phone plans, video streaming, sports and e-commerce.
In testing Movie Club, “what we found was that the broad group of moviegoers – those who go to the cinema once or twice a month – were the ones we wanted to reach.” MoviePass, by comparison, was initially aimed at avid moviegoers, one of the reasons for its lack of cash, though it recently reverted to three movies for $10 a month, a setup it says now hits 85% of viewers. his members.
Zoradi isn’t ruling out the possibility of adding a more expensive tier for heavier moviegoers down the line. But by keeping the initial ambitions fairly modest – “we haven’t really reinvented the wheel,” the CEO says – Cinemark has found it has learned to further whet the appetite for ticket purchases. “People tell us they want to go four to six times more a year than non-members,” he said.
One key, influenced by millennial members of the Cinemark team, was trying to create an easy route to signing up and canceling a subscription through the app. “We took all the friction out of the filming process,” Zoradi said. “What we wanted to do was cut out the fine print or bureaucracy.”
At the same time, collecting general consumer data (such as moviegoers’ dining or carpooling preferences) isn’t the end goal, as it is with MoviePass, Zoradi says. “We’re not looking to sell the data,” he said. “We seek to manage the data. … We’re not here to peddle it.