PHOENIX – A self-described “historian of Hollywood,” the Director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg School believes services like MoviePass are nudging the U.S. movie industry toward a subscription model for ticket sales.
“I was fascinated by MoviePass,” says Jeff Cole in this interview with Beet.TV at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. “Even though MoviePass isn’t going to be around to celebrate at the big party, they showed that there was a real love of film in the theatres.”
He credits MoviePass, which faces steep financial challenges as The New York Times and others have reported, with helping to drive the 7% unit increase in box office ticket sales in 2018.
“I think MoviePass was why box office was actually up this year,” says Cole, citing in particular the popularity of documentaries like RBG, Welcome to My Neighborhood and Three Identical Strangers. “I think you’re going to see the whole movie business slowly move to a subscription model the same way the music business has moved to a subscription model.”
He is also enthralled by the rise of direct-to-consumer streaming services from the likes of Disney while foreseeing distinct restrictions on that growth.
“This is the most important year for direct to consumer video. All the rules and all the players are going to change. I suspect there’s not room for more than two or three of these services as pay services, so it remains to be seen if they can exist independently or they will re-consolidate,” Cole says.
Nonetheless, he sees Disney as the dominant studio in a field of eight that over time has shrunk to six. “We’ve never seen one studio dominate the way Disney is now,” leaving studios like Paramount and Sony “almost in the dust.” Considering some of Disney’s slate of offerings this year, including Dumbo, a live version of The Lion King and Avengers, he adds, “They’re unstoppable at the moment.”
Consumers have clearly won—at least until now, according to Cole, whose research shows that for people under the age of 30, only 20% of their television is live (mostly sports). The rest is recorded or streamed.
“All of a sudden, the consumer for ten dollars a month was getting all this content from all the studios, a fantastic bargain, in three years may be paying forty dollars for the same thing.”