Cineplex CEO Questions How MoviePass Can "Continue to Deliver"

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Ellis Jacob

Ellis Jacob, the head of the Canadian theater giant, talked to The Hollywood Reporter after the 'Black Panther' box office wasn't enough to offset a weaker first-quarter film slate, which lowered earnings.

Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob questions the value to consumers of the ever-morphing MoviePass after the subscription ticket service briefly ended its unlimited moviegoing plan before reviving it on Wednesday.

"Their offering keeps changing. So, as a consumer, I don't know how [MoviePass] will continue to deliver, because they started off with one program, they changed to another program, and their latest program won't allow you to see a movie more than once," Jacob told analysts during a Wednesday morning conference call.

MoviePass has yet to expand into Canada, but Jacob told The Hollywood Reporter after the analyst call that the movie subscription service deciding to sell 30 tickets for the price of one again doesn't temper his skepticism. Nor is the exec impressed with MoviePass talking about selling data that the company pulls from its subscribers.

"Their whole focus is on data. We started data 11 years ago," Jacob said of the Cineplex Scene card, a free loyalty card for the exhibitor's patrons. "We've got great data. If an advertiser wants data, they come to us first," he added.

MoviePass on Wednesday returned to offering subscribers the chance to see one movie a day for $9.95 per month. Some customers pay as low as $6.95 for a subscription, and MoviePass pays theater owners the difference in price.

Cineplex, Canada's biggest movie circuit, also on Wednesday posted lower first-quarter earnings at $15.2 million, down 33 percent from a year-earlier $23 million, on revenue of $390.9 million, off 1 percent from $394.2 million in 2017.

First-quarter box-office revenue was $181.4 million, down 7.2 percent from $195.4 million in the year-ago period, as Cineplex saw theater attendance fall to 17.8 million people during the latest quarter, against 19.6 million patrons in 2017.

Disney's Black Panther accounted for just over 22 percent of Cineplex's box-office takings during the latest quarter, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle for another 10 percent.

But Hollywood titles like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Peter Rabbit and Fifty Shades Freed didn't perform as well as first-quarter 2017 titles like Beauty and the Beast, Logan, The Lego Batman Movie and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.