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cPass wants to be the European MoviePass for all entertainment

cPass wants to be the European MoviePass for all entertainment
From Engadget - April 16, 2018

As it stands, cPass is a MoviePass-inspired clone with only a limited number of beta accounts currently live in London. It operates in much the same way: subscribers reserve tickets for same-day showings through an app, turn up at the theater and use their cPass to pay for the seat. A monthly fee of 9.95 (around $14) entitles you to one standard ticket per day, which is to say 3D, IMAX and other premium types of screenings are off-limits. The cPass is tantamount to a debit card, with the movie theater itself collecting the full purchase price for each ticket.

The Vahabi brothers have worked on several startups over the past 12 years. Some gained traction, others did not. Currently, Pedra is a UX designer at Amazon and startup mentor at Google Launchpad. Puya is a research scientist at Pandora and lecturer for UC Berkley's School of Information.

Puya does not deny MoviePass has influenced their latest side gig. "Just one of the factors we consider when we choose the next project to work on is if someone else is showing there's need," he told me.

There is a key difference between the services, however, in that cPass has no formal agreements with any of the UK's cinema chains. The company does have a partner that acts as the middleman, turning taps in the app into ticket reservations. The cPass network, then, includes any theater in London that has a basic online presence and accepts card payments. In the short-term, the plan is to avoid any structured agreements.

MoviePass has had its fair share of growing pains, but so far there has not been any industry pushback to cPass. The UK Cinema Association (UKCA), which represents theater operators, has expressed skepticism about the service. "cPass is in the recruitment phase, building a subscriber base without any actual offer," the UKCA told its members in a letter seen by Deadline.

The only dealings theater chains have really had with cPass thus far was to ask that their logos be removed from its website when it first went live. Listing names was fine, cPass was told, but using logos (especially without consent) implies a formal level of involvement that could be misleading.

cPass is not particularly close to launching to the public, though, so we will have to see how that shakes out. At the moment, it's simply filling a few seats that might otherwise be empty. But two of the UK's biggest chains, Odeon and Cineworld, offer their own unlimited passes for 17.99 and 17.90 per month, respectively. If and when cPass begins poaching these users, the potential for animosity obviously heightens. That's a pretty big if, mind.

The problem cPass has is one of sustainability. It's simple math: if a subscriber pays 10 per month and goes to, say, ten screenings that cPass pays full ticket price for, that's a significant shortfall. But Puya is confident cPass could be profitable within a few years, as long as investors keep pumping money into it to keep it afloat. As it stands, I am told cPass is on track to officially launch to the public around September/October time, though that could be accelerated. If money's tight, one option could be to introduce a slightly cheaper subscription tier offering one ticket per week, but the founders insist unlimited movies for 10 per month is definitely viable.

As much as that will get people through theater doors, UKCA CEO Phil Clapp believes it may also be a cause for concern for operators. Where streaming services and digital downloads have brought the price of watching films at home down, ticket prices for the silver screen have increased. The worry is that cPass-like services will devalue the cinema experience. If moviegoers become accustomed to a cheap subscription service that subsequently folds, normal ticket prices may seem unreasonable by comparison, impacting attendance.

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