MoviePass, MovieCrash Director Muta’Ali on Shining Positive Spotlight on Black Founders in 2024 Doc – The Global Tofay

MoviePass, MovieCrash Director Muta'Ali on Shining Positive Spotlight on Black Founders in 2024 Doc - The Global Tofay Global Today

MoviePass, MovieCrash director Muta’Ali knows he could have focused on the most sensationalized version of the MoviePass story: the series of missteps that lead to the movie ticketing company’s dramatic fall from Hollywood’s good graces when it went bankrupt in 2019.

To be clear, the HBO doc does explain what went wrong with the beloved app that, for a brief, shining moment between 2017 and 2019, allowed members to visit the movie theater once a day for just $9.99 a month. But at the heart of the movie is the beautiful vision that founders Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt held in their hearts when they launched the company in 2011. They just wanted to make it easier than ever before for people to go to the movies.

“This is a story about two people following what I look at as the American dream,” Muta’Ali says.

“I didn’t want to center the sensational, salacious spending, as much as I could have. The whole thing could have been about Coachella and the $150 million of wasteful spending. But it, to me, would have rang more as sort of a story about a company being pillaged, and I think I’m a little bit tired of hearing stories like that,” Muta’Ali tells MovieMaker. “So I wanted to tell a story that was really more about entrepreneurs with something good to offer and and how they overcame huge challenges.”

The doc explains how MoviePass was acquired by analytics firm Helios and Matheson (HMNY). When they rolled out its famously low price, its explosion in subscriber numbers was largely credited to HMNY CEO Ted Farnsworth, who soon took over as co-CEO of the movie ticketing company opposite Mitch Lowe, pushing Spikes and Watt out of their own company. Farnsworth and Lowe were often mistakenly credited as the founders of MoviePass, erasing the years of hard work that Spikes and Watt had spent setting it up for success.

By 2019, as a result of various financial missteps, MoviePass went bankrupt and folded. In the documentary, Spikes and Watt describe their feelings of powerlessness as they watched from the sidelines while their company got run into the ground.

“Everything went awry on such a huge stage in such a big way. I said, ‘Oh, wow. Okay, this has to be told,’” Muta’Ali says.

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But instead of making it a sad and tragic story about a great, Black-founded company being plundered, he chose to make it an inspiring story of how even the worst failures can be turned into something beautiful. For all of its struggles, today, MoviePass is back in business. Spikes bought back the company from bankruptcy in 2019 and is once again at the helm. The end of the doc explains that in 2023, MoviePass had its first-ever profitable year.

“Starting a company, having an intention — I think it’s positive, helping people go to the movies and making moviegoing easier. And also giving their all to it over years and years and years and hoping that it flourishes. I think in their pursuit of what I call the American dream, they kind of cross paths with people who looked at things differently in terms of how you should operate a business and and what you need to do to succeed,” he adds.

“It was important to center Stacy and Hamet because they are the founders of MoviePass. The other layer, though, is them being Black people… and to see a story that hasn’t been told be one where two people dedicated more than a decade of their life to pursue this dream.”

MoviePass, MovieCrash is now streaming on Max.

Main Image: Photograph by San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/HBO

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