Even though several cinemas on the market have offered subscription schemes for some time, it wasn't until MoviePass’ conception and the introduction of AMC's scheme that many exhibitors got really interested in a subscription offer—and manifested their interest to us.
MoviePass may have failed to become a long-lasting actor in the exhibition landscape, but its disruptive offerings changed the industry’s view on subscription models, revealing a range of opportunities. MoviePass proved that the subscription model was a good way to get more people to go to the cinema more often throughout the year—which represents more opportunities for premium format upsells and concessions sales—and that subscriptions are a good way to encourage people to see a more diverse range of movies, thus helping to fill in all screenings and flattening line-up effects.
AMC launched its own subscription scheme “A-List” after getting data and advice from recently acquired ODEON, and it launched with results exceeding expectations and forecasts. A-List was designed as a premium tier to their loyalty program, which already had paid and free plans, making their subscription offer entirely consistent with what existed.
Once both of these initiatives taught their lessons, we were approached by several customers who wanted to include subscription plans with their existing offers. But introducing a new business model requires a lot of groundwork—and on both sides!—to get right.
As always, we wanted to ensure we developed the best solution for our customers. A solution that is flexible and powerful enough to not only meet their very different needs, but also to solve the issues they faced when creating their own schemes or when using third-party services.
18 months in the making
In early 2019, we kicked off our subscription project with ODEON, after assessing the market and hearing interest from customers all over the world. Much like other strategic software projects like Film Manager and Serve, we knew that working closely with our customers would enable us to develop the best product.
ODEON ran their “Limitless” subscription scheme for 3 years. They had the experience, the insights, and the data that would enrich and complete our understanding of what we needed to build. With ODEON, we were able to quickly identify two of the most important things we had to achieve:
First, our subscription solution had to enhance the power of our Loyalty product, which is extremely flexible and comprehensive, with an extensive range of functionality. Subscriptions was built to seamlessly integrate on top of Loyalty—like a premium tier—and to empower exhibitors with the ability to configure all sorts of subscription schemes. Whether it was unlimited offers or a certain number of tickets per day, or week, or month… from age-based plans to straight-up discounts, we wanted our customers to be able to configure it all. Structure, mechanics, pricing rewards, you name it: with Subscriptions, you can most certainly do it.
Retaining exhibitor control
Our second major goal was to make sure exhibitors will keep full control over their moviegoer experience and data. We know a significant part of the value lies there.
We’re proud to say that the plans exhibitors build with Subscriptions are run in-house. This allows exhibitors to retain control over their moviegoer’s journey from start to finish. By keeping subscribers’ purchases on their sales channels, exhibitors can leverage upsell opportunities through premium seat offerings, or food and beverage deals, for instance, while gaining actionable customer data. Where other offers on the market take control over the customers’ experience, Subscriptions ensures control always rests firmly in the hands of the exhibitor.
Constant validation with the wider market also turned out to be crucial. For example, we originally envisioned that customers would want to build their own website to deal with subscription sign-up and management. It was only after developing a few web components to plug into their website and build around that we realised we needed to provide a solution for customers wishing to go live quickly and avoid the time-consuming—and potentially expensive—stop of redesigning part of their website.
So we also developed an out-of-the-box subscription portal, hosted by Vista, where subscribers can sign up and manage their details. This way, we're ensuring Subscriptions can suit all exhibitors; those who want a quick way to get their subscription scheme up and running, those who’d rather build their own subscription page that integrates with Vista, and those who decide to run the out-of-the-box portal temporarily while rebuilding their own website.
Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 delayed our go-live date like most things in 2020. But we’re excited to finally be able to provide our customers with a best-in-class Subscriptions solution! If movie subscriptions already made sense for cinemas before Covid-19, we believe they are even more relevant today, during exhibitors’ reopening phase.
Ensure a recurring revenue stream, bring business stability, increase visiting frequency, strengthen moviegoers’ engagement and loyalty... isn’t that what we’re all aiming for right now?