On the heels of the US-based Moviepass and its British counterparts Cineworld Unlimited and Odeon Limitless, arthouse and indie streaming platform Mubi launched its new initiative Mubi Go in the UK earlier this month. The service allows subscribers of Mubi to pick up one free ticket for a selected film each week, redeemable in one of the independent cinemas around the UK, including the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Edinburgh Filmhouse. Though Mubi has been around since 2007, up till early September it was primarily a digital streaming service; its gimmick being that it only has 30 films in its library at any given time, with a new film being added each day whilst an old one is removed.
Arguably, the rise of subscription-based cinema passes has come out of fear of the competition posed by digital streaming and distribution platforms such as Amazon Studios and Netflix. Still, in theory, this is a great, fresh initiative to get audiences back into the theatre.
The 3 million subscribers MoviePass reportedly had in June shows that there is a is a huge demand for this new form of cinema-going. Yet amid this success, MoviePass has become infamous in the news for its various financial mishandlings and inability to generate profit, with its future currently hanging in the balance. Meanwhile, Cineworld Unlimited seems to be faring better but comes at the steeper price of £17.90 per month. Mubi Go, in comparison, is off to a more humble start. A one-month Mubi subscription at £7.99 is already cheaper than the average movie ticket, and seems like a steal for the four movie tickets and the additional 30 films on the streaming platform included in the price.
The big question, however, is what sort of movies will be available through Mubi Go. Whilst Mubi prides itself as being one of the few streaming services for fans of arthouse and foreign language films, its online catalogue tends to be something of a mixed bag. As of October 2018, it is showing a retrospective on film maestro Hitchcock and provocateur filmmaker Gaspard Noé (probably in build-up to the release of his film Climax, which will likely be available on Mubi Go), alongside lesser-known films, such as shorts by first-time directors and undistributed movies, which might be a hard sell to even the most ardent of film fans. Mubi Go’s success will be dependant on its line-up, which will consist of a mix of films distributed by the company itself and from other distributors. The lineup-up so far has been promising, with the Oscar-nominated Agnès Varda documentary Faces Places screening last week and the much-hyped Suspiria remake launching in November. However, in-between there are films, such as this week’s teen drama Skate Kitchen, which might draw in smaller audiences based on its relatively unknown cast and crew, and lack of mainstream promotion.
Though there is certainly an element of pretention to Mubi as a platform – it was recently criticised for advertising with slogans such as “If you think Tarkovsky composed Swan Lake, don’t try Mubi”- it is hard to fault the companies’ efforts to distribute and showcase more independent, foreign and arthouse films. The new subscription model is also an attempt to launch Mubi’s new wave of film distributions in the UK, which seems to be aiming to give smaller and festival-favourite films a timely British release. This is especially promising for British cinemas, as many independent films either take months to make it overseas or aren’t distributed in the UK at all. It should also be noted that Mubi offers free memberships to film students all across the world, though Mubi Go tickets are only available for those with a paid membership.
It remains to be seen whether Mubi Go will prove a worthy investment for film fans, as the company keeps most of its future line-up a secret. Still, with its relatively cheap monthly fee and the range of services it offers, it seems like there’s enough content here to get your money’s worth. Though the company has promised to not increase its subscription price in the future, one has to wonder whether Mubi will evade the financial mishaps of Moviepass and be a profitable venture for the platform. Either way, for British film fans, Mubi Go is making an exciting offer to see the newest works of Varda, Noé, Guadagnino and co. on the big screen.
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