MoviePass CEO apologizes for location-tracking commentsThe Mercury News — By Seung Lee The Mercury News
March 13-- MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe apologized to the company's subscribers for comments he made earlier this month on the app tracking users before and after they use the app.
Lowe sent an email to subscribers Monday, explaining his comments from a panel talk in Hollywood where he said "we watch how you drive from home to the movies...we watch where you go afterwards."
"Through a mix of exuberance about our future and joking around, I mischaracterized how MoviePass locates our members and I need to fix that," said Lowe. "First and foremost, I apologize for these comments and the concern they caused. At MoviePass, we take customer privacy extremely seriously. I would like to eliminate any misconceptions that we're collecting location related data."
At the Entertainment Finance Forum, Lowe-whose talk was titled "Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?"-said the app tracking was an integral part of the company's long-term business plan. With a monthly plan as low as $7.95 that allows subscribers too see one movie in a partner theater per day, experts and subscribers raised questions about whether MoviePass can be sustainable in the long run.
Using the data collected from its users, Lowe said MoviePass would like to "build a night at the movies," where MoviePass can direct subscribers to a dinner place-and get a cut from the vendors.
But Lowe backtracked on the app's tracking capabilities on Monday, saying MoviePass "does not track and has never tracked or collected data on the location of our members at any point when the app is not active."
"In our recent update with Apple, we removed the the background tracking capabilities," said Lowe in the email. "MoviePass does not use and has never used this feature."
Lowe said in the email that MoviePass only tracks users in two scenarios: when a user searches for theaters nearby and when a user checks into a theater with the app open.
After Lowe's comments at the talk was made public, MoviePass issued a statement to this news organization echoing Lowe's point.
"At MoviePass our vision is to build a complete night out at the movies," said a MoviePass spokesperson in an emailed statement. "We are exploring utilizing location-based marketing as a way to help enhance the overall experience by creating more opportunities for our subscribers to enjoy all the various elements of a good movie night. We will not be selling the data that we gather. Rather, we will use it to better inform how to market potential customer benefits including discounts on transportation, coupons for nearby restaurants, and other similar opportunities."
Beyond his location tracking comments, Lowe exuded optimism about his company's prospects by the end of 2018. The company has 2 million subscribers, and Lowe said he expected to hit 5 million subscribers and account for nearly 20 percent of all box office ticket purchases by the end of the year.
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