Emerging Hope: A Tale of Cultural Influence and Entrepreneurial Tenacity with MoviePass founder Stacy Spikes

Ever experienced a mishap so embarrassing you can’t help but laugh? Stacey Spikes has. From a comical mix-up with a phone sex line to a premiere gone awry, Stacey’s journey as a Black founder is inspiring. Join us as we unravel the intriguing narrative of this visionary entrepreneur and author of “Black Founder: The Hidden Power of Being an Outsider,” highlighting his relentless tenacity, the influence of his cultural upbringing, and his dedication to overcoming any challenges that come his way.

Think the lack of diversity in venture capital is a minor issue? Think again. Our in-depth conversation with Stacey didn’t shy away from the hard truths about the effects of limited representation in industries such as sports, music, and entertainment. We delved into the intersection of urban culture, technology, and storytelling and how they set the stage for shaping our society. Stacey, co-founder of MoviePass, also shared his mission to amplify marginalized voices in cinema and the unique power of local theaters in fostering community and creating a sense of place.

Ever wondered what it takes to bring a bankrupt company back from the brink? Hear it from Stacey. We explored the tumultuous journey of MoviePass, the nation’s first theatrical subscription service. From its skyrocketing success to bankruptcy and its eventual resurgence, Stacey shared valuable insights on the impact of MoviePass on smaller theaters and communities, and how it made watching new movies an easy choice for people. We wrapped our conversation acknowledging the transformative role of technology in cinema and the power of being an outsider in the industry. Tune in for an episode filled with laughter, insight, and a whole lot of inspiration.

AI Transcript

Stacy Spikes: Adventure should never come with a pause button. Movie going is a lot like that. The lights go down. No one knows what’s going to happen. No one knows how it’s going to end. When I go to the church of cinema, I’m collectively experiencing something. I have no idea what’s going to happen.

Benn Marine: Welcome to Emerging Hope, a responsibly different podcast, sharing conversations about innovation and the good it can create. Welcome to the Responsibly Different podcast channel. We have a special treat for you today. This conversation is one from a new show you’ll find on this channel called Emerging Hope, hosted by our very own David Gogel. Emerging Hope is a series of conversations centered around innovation and the positive impact it can have on social and environmental issues. Our guest today is Stacey Spikes. Stacey Spikes is a visionary entrepreneur who has spent his life at the intersection of storytelling, technology, and culture. He’s best known as the founding CEO of MoviePass and founder of the Urban World Film Festival. He’s also the author of the new book, Black Founder, The Hidden Power of Being an Outsider. In this episode, Diego Collective’s president, David Goguel, sat down with Stacey to have an open conversation about his book, The Role of Technology and Innovation in Creating Access to Storytelling. And we’ll enter this conversation with Stacey sharing why he wrote the book and what it means to him to be a Black founder.

Stacy Spikes: really why I wrote it. I wanted people to know it’s not always, you know, rainbows and roses. I know and I don’t forget on most days that I am a descendant of slaves and I am a descendant of people who did not get the opportunity to wake up and say, I think I’m going to go start a business. And that was not even a choice. And I think Living in this moment being first or second generation to have that possibility is not lost upon me the importance of when I’m having a bad day, there’s this voice that goes, really? Really? You think you’re having a bad day? And to kind of push on and keep going through those challenges.

David Gogel: So yeah, I wonder if you can just expand on that. I mean, I, you, I was listening to another interview that you did and you talked a lot about that of like, it’s just like ingrained in who you are, realizing where you’ve come from and how important it is. You know, you use the language like to not fuck it up. Right. I think I’ve heard you say that. Right. Yeah. Can you, that feels really, that feels really important to expand on. So in those moments, and I’m thinking of a couple of examples from the book, right? Thinking about, like, the phone sex line example, right? Or, you know what I mean? Which, like, I don’t, like, that was, like, the one where I was, like, when reading that, I’m, like, okay, I would have quit. I was, like, that would have been it for me, right? But there’s other, but I’m thinking also about, like, the moment of, like, the premiere where the sound, like, the sound isn’t tracking, like, all these examples where I’m just thinking of, like, the, you can really tell like in the book that you’re like, you’re carrying all this with you. And I’m wondering like, is that, it sounds like it was a little bit family, but also some of the mentors you’ve had along the way. Like, can you talk a little bit more about that?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, I mean, so you named a couple of stories just for context. So we had this back in the day before the web was really more than just a landing page, you still had to do signups for our conference, you had to do it through the mail, and people would fill out and put in an envelope and mail you a check or credit, fill out the credit card number and send it back and you would manually run those charges. And what had happened was they inverted the last two numbers and it ended up being a phone sex line number when people called instead of our number. And it went out on 40,000 mailers, like my whole budget. And there was nothing we could do about it. And I called my publicist woman named Susan Jacobs, and Susan started laughing, goes, Oh, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. And I was like, my career is over, right? I’m through. And I think sometimes it’s also the company you keep because her levity, Helped and what she did was she she was like, okay, let’s call the company. Let’s get the lines reversed Let’s do call forwarding because they don’t want to lose business of an 800 number that they’re paying for and we worked it out but You know, you kind of just plow through it. It’s like what are you gonna do curl up and die? No, you’re gonna keep going and But you’ve got to kind of step out in front of the crowd with that smile on your face when meanwhile, everything’s falling apart on the side. And I think some of it is show business, right? The show must go on. And I think some of it, too, is cultural. And I think there’s a perseverance that you say, you know, you don’t quit. I told someone walked up to me yesterday. And they told me a story that I don’t remember, Kelly, but I’ll share this. If you read Walter Payton’s biography, so Walter Payton, for those too young to remember, was a great running back. And Walter was one of those that the highlight reel is Walter’s just plowing over people and he’s putting his helmet in people’s chest and literally stepping over people into the end zone. And when Walter played football in college, the coach had a rule, you could not run out of bounds to avoid a hit. And so Walter said, we learned to play, you didn’t run out of bounds. And so people were always used to the running back running out and avoiding the hit. So they were shocked when you come up on Walter, and he nailed you. And that’s how he got so many yards. And I think my culture and how I was raised, you didn’t run out of bounds to avoid the hit. And you embrace the hit as part of who you were, what you have to go through, because if you’re going to win, you have to be better than the rest.

David Gogel: Yeah, no, and that really I think that comes through in your storytelling in the book to it’s it’s one of the things that is so clear is you’re just your determination to really take ownership of, you know, of your, your life and I know that’s something that you talk a lot about is what it means to have ownership over something. And again, for a lot of different people, that means different things. But it seems really, really clear that you had that determination. And the story of Black Founder in the book, you do such a good job of of helping understand like what it’s like to feel like a guest in somebody else’s world. And it’s like this story of this push and pull of like you’re, you’re there and then you think you’re there and you get pulled back. And I just, you know, we’re all outsiders in different, in different ways. Obviously black founders about, you know, your specific journey and what it’s like to that battle to be a Black founder in this world that feels separate. But as somebody reading it, you do get this just true feeling of like, you know, for me personally, the lived experience and the ways that I feel like an outsider, you come along on that journey. So I’m wondering, can you talk a little bit about what it’s like to feel like you’re there and then feel like, oh yeah, nope, there’s still this ceiling. Because that rollercoaster ride really comes through in the book. And for those who haven’t read it, I’m just hoping you can share a little bit more about that.

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, it’s funny because, you know, having gone up through the entertainment industry and working in what we would call black music or urban film, you could kind of be a king in a kingdom and get to play and everything’s good. But it wasn’t until I became a tech entrepreneur and I stepped out behind that, that you’re now competing in a landscape just like everybody else. And all of a sudden, you saw I think when I became an entrepreneur and started doing my own thing, I had already grossed, my projects had grossed north of $3 billion in sales. And so you’re stepping out there with a lot of experience about consumer adoption and what’s hot and how to do certain things. And yet, kids that were 10 years younger than me, were getting financed with no experience, no knowledge, no audience, you know, pre having built something up because they went to Stanford, they went to Yale, they went to Harvard, they didn’t need to finish, they just had to, they could drop out. And still, you saw funding. And I talk about this in the book that only Three percent one percent goes to minorities but minorities and women combine is only three percent of venture capital today right that’s not it’s not ten years ago starting movie pass and so. That access to capital you suddenly realize there’s this moment where you’re like wait. Wait, it’s something, right? Because everything you’ve done to date is just, you’ve rocked it. You’ve worked with Boyz II Men. You’ve worked with Spike Lee. You’ve worked with Michael Jackson. You’ve worked, like everything you’ve done, you’ve rocked it. And now suddenly you get here and you’re like, wait a minute. The rules have changed. It’s these schools, you need to wear a hoodie and went to this school and dropped out. and the whole game changed. And then there was a race factor, and it was more complex because it wasn’t racist. I call it pattern recognition. It was like, you don’t look the pattern of a entrepreneur and a writer from the new yorker was interviewing me and she asked me a similar question what you’re asking i said if you and i went out on the street right now. In new york and we stopped people and we said we’re we’re taking a poll and we stop them and we said close your eyes tell describe to us what a tech entrepreneur looks like. And I said to her, they would not describe you or me first. And the reason Black Founder came out as a book was there is no book about minority tech founders. There isn’t one. And that was the point of we needed to start to show that tech founders look different. And that’s, that’s the whole reason why the cover looks how it looks, the title is what it is, and why we decided to come out with the book.

David Gogel: Yeah, no, that it’s such an important You know, it’s such an important story to tell. And also what I really appreciate is you’re you’re bringing like the math so that way everybody can see exactly what you’re talking about. Like one of the things I heard you touch on that I’m hoping you can expand here too, is that even coming out of all the things that have happened recently, like with venture capital firms saying that they’re committing funds to, you know, make sure that there’s equity and access around what businesses are getting funded. You’re like, you’re saying like the math isn’t adding up. Right. And talking about like the way that that is kind of getting separately pooled. And I’m wondering, can you expand on that a little bit and talk about what you think is going on there and, and potentially what some solutions might be? Yeah.

Stacy Spikes: So I refer to a sports analogy and So I want you to imagine we’re going to rewind back in time, and there was a period of time where basketball and football did not have minorities. Minorities weren’t allowed to play, and baseball as well. And so there was a starting point where you had, here’s Hank Aaron, and here’s certain other athletes, and they’re all starting to come online. And what they were all judged upon was the How good you were in your stats, how many home runs you hit, how many bases you stole, how many touchdowns did you get, right? That was it. It was based on the math. Venture capital with only one to three percent of minorities is the equivalent of you’re watching the Hank Aarons and Willie Mays and the first ones on the field. It’s early in the game, but the beauty of it in America is when you when you. allow people of color access to sports look what happened when you allow people of color access to music look what happened when you saw restaurant starting to be created when you saw. Certain businesses you and i probably aren’t that far apart in age but it was like there was a point where you had five magazine and you had bt and you had. a lot of stuff that added to the lexicon of entertainment businesses, the sector I was in that started with Motown as like the first one, right? There was this one little company. And that’s the part where we need to open our eyes as a country that there’s a lot of hidden talent that’s not getting access, that if we allow access to it, I want you to imagine a hundred-year-old sports like football still today not having minorities in it. What would it be, right? I want you to imagine soccer I want you to imagine there is no Pele. Imagine all of these games that if you did not allow minorities on the field, well, that’s what venture is doing in modern capital in the United States. And you have such rich talent here, but you’re not able to access it because it doesn’t look like what you think success looks like.

David Gogel: Yeah. No, it’s so true. And it’s funny, you talk about it’s like what that access does for culture. I know. Right. So like, I’m, I’m Jewish. Right. Like, so it’s like, you know, but like my big music influence. was rap sitting in the basement. Oh yeah. And like that, so it’s, it’s interesting, right? Cause like for me that shaped a lot in like my brother listens to this, he’ll laugh. Um, cause I have a younger brother and like so much of our taste in music was shaped by like coming home after school. You get home from after school, rap scene in the basement was on and we were getting exposed to all these artists that was really shaping the, like the, what music we were interested in, that’s, you know, at an influential point in my life. And to your point, if, if, if it wasn’t for that program on BET, I wouldn’t have access to, you know, this whole wealth of culture that has really informed my taste in music and entertainment.

Stacy Spikes: And also your relationships in society, right? Because you started to see things and get a point of view that even reflects how you even interpreted my book, right? Your past actually gave you emotional access to it in a way that you wouldn’t have. And I think the same way we’ll see stories from people, like whether it’s the Holocaust or growing up, dealing with anti-Semitism in the States, like all of that, the more we get to experience each other cultures, the more we are embracing it.

David Gogel: No, totally. And that’s, and so something that you, you touched on that word, that culture, right? And that’s, um, and I pop for those who haven’t read the book, I know I’m talking a lot about the, about the book, but it’s really good and everybody, everybody should read it. But you talk about, um, with urban world and why it was called urban world and this idea, right? Of again, urban, it’s a mindset, you know what I mean? More so than anything else. And I think that’s one of the big takeaways is Throughout your career, you’ve really had your pulse on this idea of like the mindset of that urban culture. And yes, you talk a lot about your experience as a black entrepreneur and a black executive, but just like this idea of you’ve also been at the forefront of this intersection of this urban culture and technology and storytelling and something I don’t know if it was in the book or something you said in an interview, but just like story is all about where we’re going and story is everything. And like, have you always have you always felt that has storytelling always been important to you?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, I have this view of storytelling from call. Well, you know, it started out with a three minute song, right? And then it’s a 90 minute, or two hour movie. And then it’s something that’s episodic. And today, we have like the six second story, right? And but it’s all storytelling. When you look at politics, when you look at news, when you look at What a lot of people don’t know is seven hours a day, human beings spend watching media and entertainment. seven hours a day on average. It’s all storytelling. Even if it’s documentaries, it’s all storytelling. And so we’re storytelling beings. And that’s the part that a lot of people don’t realize. There’s this great quote. The author is Yuval Noah Harari. In his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, he says, Homo sapien is a storytelling animal that thinks in stories. When we look for the meaning of life we want a story that explains what reality is all about and what my particular role is in this cosmic drama and so. We started by, you know, painting pictures on walls 40,000 years ago, then we snapped those pictures and started telling stories more and more. And that’s why movie is movie making is the highest art form that human beings have, because it incorporates all those mediums, music, It’s written imagery. It pulls them all together and tells stories. And so when I was looking at the last avatar, I kept having to sit there and go, none of this is real. This planet’s not real. These people aren’t real. Like, look at this and how our tools today are so profound in our ability to tell stories.

David Gogel: Yeah. And one of the things that seems to come across when you read kind of your story and hear you speak is this idea of storytelling is so powerful that it’s really, really important that we ensure that everyone has access to tell their story because it’s kind of like that’s how we manifest the future. In that, it’s like, one, is that true? And two, it seems like you’ve dedicated your life to making sure, in particular, in your case, your life’s mission around making sure that black and brown and women stories are told so that way the future that we all want to see is manifested. Is that accurate? And what was it like to find that North Star? Because it seems like you have a very, very clear North Star.

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. I was reading, I think it was Gordon Parks, and he was talking about There’s one of those famous photos where someone was putting a flower in the muzzle of a gun. And he said, you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, and they can say more and do more. And, you know, the idea that our stories and our humanity this thought because i’ve always been on the what i would call the ticket selling side of the world like i’m marketing did i get you to go see the movie and i’m judged monday morning by what the box office gross was and there was always this idea that If you can buy a ticket to a movie, you should have the right to make a movie, right? And culturally, what was happening was there was a small group of people who would finance pictures, would make those pictures, and were the ones that determine where we saw those pictures. That was a very small group of people. When you think of it, there’s five there’s five men today that determine most of what is seen in human culture, in movie theaters today, right? Five people, and they’re the decision makers at the top of that heap. And so when you don’t have decision makers that are diverse, you end up with a very streamlined group of stories, and people get left out and points of views get left out. And the more like you talking about you and your brother, you know, watching Rap City after school, you got introduced to struggles and points of views that you might not have known. And when I go see Schindler’s List, I got introduced to struggles that I would not have been aware of, right? And that’s so important. And it’s easy to take those journeys. We can all go sit in the theater and go anywhere in the world and look at someone else’s problems, like Golda that’s in theaters now with the Israeli prime minister that’s being played by Helen Mirren. And so, again, those are stories that you won’t see unless a group of people are financing and putting those things in theater because they want to make sure those stories are told.

David Gogel: Movies right and it seems like but you also feel really strongly. That’s like the collective experience of Like seeing that together. I mean you talk about that in the book, but you you know, it seems like that’s you talk You’ve been talking about that for a long time right about like hey stories are important, but this idea of like seeing it live collective Together is important. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, I mean so we have a saying in the office here at movie past adventures should never come with the pause button Right. When you watch a sporting event, you can’t press pause. You can pause the playback, but you can’t pause what’s happening. And movie going is a lot like that. The lights go down. No one knows what’s going to happen. No one knows how it’s going to end. And it may say, you know, once upon a time, a great adventure took place. Right. And that feeling with the group is second to a communal experience at a church, a synagogue, or a mosque, right? It is only second to that. The only difference is When we go to church, I’m experiencing a collective decision about our faith and what we believe. But when I go to the church of cinema, I’m collectively experiencing something, I have no idea what’s going to happen, right? None. And whether that’s a horror movie, or maybe we’re going to fall in love, or maybe we’re going to save the world. Or maybe we’re going to see a film about 9-11. It’s the only art form that really does that. When you go to a concert, you’ve heard the whole album and you can sing every song, right? Even though it’s live, you can sing every song and you know what’s going to happen. When you go to the movies, it’s closer to sports or things like that that you have no idea what’s going to happen. You know the good guys and the bad guys, but you just don’t know.

David Gogel: Yeah. No, and I think that the other piece of it that, that you’re touching on there is just the role that coming together has in communities. Right. And so I wonder, I think about theaters, especially again, outside of, so, you know, for your career, most people think of you, they think of like big cities like LA in New York. Right. But for, for communities around the country, their local theater it’s important to the sense of place, right? It’s it, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s important to those inter intergenerational interactions, um, the economic vibrancy of that community. So is that something that, you know, and again, I want to talk a little bit about, about movie pass, but just thinking about when you’re, when you’re starting movie pass and you’re in the, again, on this, on this journey with the business, is that something you guys are thinking about? Like the role that like local theaters play for communities?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. So a lot of people don’t know this movie going is the number one entertainment activity outside the home in the world in all countries around the world, number one. And that is more people go to cinema, then go to sporting events, amusement park and music concerts combined two to one. So when you have that you are spot on that community That families you know the grandparents going with the grandkids and people going on their first date and the couple who’s kids left home in their empty nesters and they’re trying to get to know each other again all those things happen in movie theaters right but we don’t talk about it as much. And I’ll never forget, it was after the Gulf War, Gulf War II, we got an email from a veteran, and he said he had come back with a lot of PTSD issues, and he was sitting alone in his home, and someone got him a movie pass. And he said, it saved my life because it got me going out of the house and being around people again. And he started talking about how he started dating, and they’d go to the movies. And we would get letters from couples that would say, you know, my husband would have his Netflix account, and he’d watch what he’d want, and I’m in the other part of the house. Watching what i wanted one of the same room but we became strangers and they said when we got your movie pass we started to date again we go out and we hold hands in the dark. And that’s the reason why we do what we do, right? That’s the beauty of this business that we do. And we understand that is very important for families who want to stay together, for people who want to be close to each other, to have that kind of courtship that stays in their life, that they get to go on these little micro-adventures together and experience things like movies.

David Gogel: Yeah, no, that’s so powerful. like you just have like, I like have goosebumps hearing you talk about your work. And I wonder like, okay, so it’s clear you’re passionate about this. It’s clear that this is your life’s work. what is it like now to try and like resurrect Phoenix rising from the ashes, this business that’s like, it feels like this intersection of all of your passions. Can you just take us on that, that journey? Like, what has it been like to, to take it back, to, to relaunch and, and kind of what’s on the horizon for MoviePass?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, so, you know, a little setup, for those who don’t know, so my movie pass was the nation’s first theatrical subscription service. And my co founder, and I may watt launched it in 2012. And we crawled five years, you know, gunfights in the street to get it to exit in twenty seventeen and the private equity group that bought it they wanted to drop the price from thirty dollars a month which is. It’s a movie a day if you want every day it’s really was a cheap plan they wanted to drop it to ten dollars a month and we’re like that’s not really sustainable but. Okay, and we agreed to add 100,000 people. Long story short, we added 100,000 in 48 hours. We said, turn it off. They’re like, no, look how awesome this is. And they drove the car off the cliff and went bankrupt. So last fall, bought the company back, relaunched it. And kind of like you said, I don’t work for a living. I literally, I feel sorry for other people. I do have the best job on earth. I get to see movies for a living. I get to help people get back in touch with their loved ones and their friends. Even if they live in certain parts of the different parts of the globe, they can say, Hey, I’m going to see this movie. Let’s you go see Barbie. I’ll go see Barbie and let’s talk about Barbie. Right. And you create conversations and dialogues and And so when we went to relaunch it, people said that brand, you know, it burned in hell. Why would you want to relaunch that? And I’m like, why wouldn’t, right. It, it became the North star for all other theatrical subscription services. So after it’s, it stumbled and fell, you had AMC, you had Regal, you had Cinemark, you have Alamo and they’ve all created it. But at the end of the day, Consumers still want one-size-fits-all. They want one plan. They can go wherever the hell they want. They don’t have to think about it. They don’t have to say, oh, I can’t go to that at this time because I don’t have it. They want the ease and comfort of I can go anywhere. And that’s what MoviePass brings. We’re consumer first. We’re not a theater. We’re not a studio. We’re not bound by content. We’re not bound by geography. We just want you to go and have the best time and go as often as possible.

David Gogel: And I think one of the other things that you mentioned, right, is you’re not tied to any one theater. So for those communities, like we were mentioning, that are either in smaller towns, more rural, you know, county seats, if you will, where it’s that local theater is so important that they can use MoviePass there. And so it’s a way of getting more people in that community to see more movies, to interact. And one of the things that, you know, we haven’t really touched on as it relates to those small theaters is for many of those downtowns, the theater is like the evening anchor, right? And it’s so important for the economic vitality for those communities that they have a day economic driver and an evening economic driver. And that movie pass is a great way to get the community to engage in that evening downtown, which has a knock-on effect with the restaurants and evening shopping. Have you when you’re when you’re thinking about your roadmap moving forward? Are you guys talking to some of those those rural communities, those smaller so smaller cities? What have you gone about the strategy there?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, so you you’re very intuitive. So you know, we don’t really add much value to the big three. We do move the needle for the mom and pops for those family owned businesses that are theaters, those community centers. You’re you’re spot on that the mall in the evening, quite often the biggest traffic driver is is the those theaters and the restaurant benefit for when they’re active. What we found was titles like Lady Bird, we were like 30, 40% of sales. Mr. Rogers, won’t you be my neighbor? It was our number one film in our entire slate in that year. So we disproportionately drive more traffic to offbeat locations as well as the art house and the independents. And so are we going to change the destiny of Spider-Man and Star Wars? No. But everything else that’s that 70 million and below, we really do make a big difference in those locations. We help drive a lot of traffic there. some cool stats. 50% of MoviePass customers go one additional time Monday through Thursday during the week. So what we’re doing is we’re not only increasing lift in those other locations, we’re increasing lift midweek when people aren’t at the mall or aren’t at those restaurants.

David Gogel: Yeah. No, yeah. And so I’m sure we could have a whole another conversation just on like the economics of it, just from like on the culture side of getting people into the theater. I think there’s an analogy or at least a parallel with what people say about reading, right, which is like the best way to get somebody to be into reading is to help them understand that it’s OK to not finish the whole book. Right. And that the reason why a lot of people are intimidated, they feel like a lot of pressure. If I picked up this book, I now need to I now need to finish it. And so that stops people from becoming readers. And it sounds like with movie pass, you’re doing a similar thing with the theater, which is, yeah, you have the people that, Oh, I’m going to go see Barbie. I’m going to go see Spider-Man. But if you have movie pass, there’s a lot less pressure to make sure that you’re going to love it. Right. So you can, people can try more things and figure out what they like and don’t like, and maybe they leave the movie early. Maybe they don’t. Right. Is that, is that true? Is that, is that a part of it?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, Dave, your insight is so amazing. Somebody once said movie pass was bad movie insurance. It’s like that you having the pass and you paid for it you don’t have the risk. I can go see more and risk more, and it doesn’t cost me anymore. But the true risk at that point is not using it, is not going, is not taking advantage, getting to see things at 30 or 40% off the face value if I had to pay and make a decision every single time. Am I vested enough in this to go, I need reviews. I need to know what my friends think. I need to know who’s seen it already. I need to know, um, some influencer reviews, but when you have movie past, you’re just like, I got a couple of hours. I’m gonna go check that out. You know? And that’s, that’s part of what we bring to opening that up. I, the movie industry largely focuses on incremental spend. So if the what what they’re constantly trying to do is not increase frequency of visits, they’re trying to increase the per visit spend. And so if you’re a theater, instead of just buying the ticket, I want you to buy the ticket and the popcorn to buy the ticket, popcorn and soda, I want you to buy ticket, popcorn, soda, and a burger, right? I want ticket, popcorn, soda, burger, and a beer. they’re not thinking about, I want you to come three more times as a priority versus I want you to spend more incrementally. And that’s where we come in. We’re all about frequency. And we purely think of, we measure our biggest KPIs. How often are people going to the movie?

David Gogel: Yeah. And it seems like in order to get people to see movies more, you’re also innovating on the, the model, right? So can you talk a little bit about, it seems like you guys are innovating on the, like the way that the ad supported model, um, is that something you’re able to talk a little bit about?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah. So the ad supported model, we haven’t deployed yet. The, the tweak between movie pass one and movie pass two is, um, we introduced credits. And so the first version, Think of it. I’m going to use credit to credit analogy. So V1 was I’m going to give you 30 credits and you have no matter where you go, it’s a single credit. And what that did was it disproportionately made a movie theater in our system that was very expensive and put it on the same level with one where we got margin and was less expensive. So in other words, we charged We paid the same out whether it was peak or off peak times. MoviePass 2.0 is like, I’m going to give you the same 30 credits, but now if you want to go opening night to Barbie on Friday night, It may cost you 15 credits, but if you want to wait a few days when the theater is less busy, it’ll cost you seven credits. And so what we’re trying to do is work in alignment with the theater to drive traffic to where there’s more availability, not rush everybody into Friday and Saturday night. And so our whole job is to give you value where the theater is less busy. you know, in a nutshell. And so we use the credit system to help drive and create alignment with that. That’s the big difference between M1 and M2.

David Gogel: Yeah. No, that, that makes sense. And it feels like you’re often thinking about how you can use innovation to like Excel culture forward. I’m wondering, is that why I thought it was really, really cool that for urban world, you have a, like a chief innovation officer as a part of the staff for that festival. Like what was Is that unique to you all? What was the decision like to have a chief innovation officer for a film festival? And can you talk a little bit more about what their role is and what that’s like? Yeah.

Stacy Spikes: So the way we look at Urban World, so Urban World, we started, oh my God, I was in my 20s and it’s now been 26 years, something like that. And so, the idea of it, okay, we want more diverse players, diverse directors and actors who can play in the studio system. And how do we showcase that talent, right? So, I look at time as showcasing the talent, emerging talent now. How do you go backwards and make people aware historically of directors like Haile Dreama and ones before that to draw attention to your heritage? And then how do you help storytelling going forward that this community is as good as it gets when it comes to emerging talent? They know how to do it. So we realize if you’re going to be able to, if you need to focus on How are we telling stories in vr how are we telling stories on tiktok how are you telling stories you know when you when you started telling the story in vr you need to tell it in three hundred and sixty degrees right what’s happening behind me is important what’s happening in front of me or on the sides. When you’re telling in a large screen format, you’re purely focused on, I don’t have to pay attention wider than this. Do you go 180? Do you go 360? How you break up the stories? So we realized we needed an innovation officer to be thinking about what is storytelling going to look like 10, 20, 30 years from now. Um, I need to tell a story for the phone. I need to tell stories up to IMAX. I need to tell stories on my tablet because right now we are in the golden age of visual content storytelling. There is no time in history. We’re making Tara upon terabytes of data every day. You know, never has there been more content creation in the history of mankind.

David Gogel: You have your finger on the pulse of innovation, technology, and culture in a way that most people don’t. Do you think about the role that technology and innovation can have having an impact on social and environmental issues and where do you see the biggest opportunities for technology and storytelling to have an impact on things that many of us are really frustrated that we’re not further along as a society on? Is that something you’ve given thought to and can you talk to us about that?

Stacy Spikes: I’m biased about cinema for a few reasons. Social is so cheap to make, anyone can make it and it’s hard to tell what the truth is. Cinema is expensive to make. And it goes through a curation in a vetting process that a lot of the garbage gets weeded out. And you get things like think of a documentary or a story that takes seven years to get to market and required investors and actors and people looking at the script and saying, do I want to attach my name to this? So it’s, it’s even in my opinion, it’s even better than news, because what you’re seeing is the most important things certain communities want to say about themselves or about what’s going on. And that vetting process, to me feels more authentic and pure than what’s coming through on my phone or on a social media thread that anybody can say anything they want. It’s even more of a vetting process than even news. When I see somebody that has made, this actor has made the decision to do this screenplay that this director and this producer have been shopping for five years on this true story that was a literary work that started, right? When you get through all that, You end up with something that’s more like a diamond than rhinestones that people are throwing out on the floor everywhere. And that’s what I love about cinema is it’s a vetting process that you end up with a much purer content.

David Gogel: Yeah. And do you think that… I mean, so much of the conversation we have about technology is negative. Right. And I feel like from my perspective, it’s like, look, this is happening. Right. We’re like, you know, we can’t we can’t stop the pace of technology. And it seems like you’ve kind of embrace that and are always looking for, Hey, if this is going to happen anyways, how do we leverage this to shape the world that we want to see? Do you think it’s because being in the entertainment industry, you often were at the tip of the spear with where technology was going, or is this just innate in you? Like what made you a technologist for lack of a better way of saying it?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, I think, I think the, the thing in my medium is, um, historically, Whenever a cheaper, faster form of communication came online, the establishment always said it’s bad. When the printing press came, the church said, this is going to mess everything up. You had an entire shift in faith and in religion in the Catholic church. The moment the printing press and Martin Luther went and nailed the Protestant ideals, the Lutheran ideals on to the church, everyone said, well, this thing that you just crank is not going to be as good as the monks writing out stuff by hand on using, it was the pen. The easier you made it for individuals to say something and cheaper, the above establishment always said bad, bad, bad, bad. This is bad. This is going to be bad. So when even cameras, movie cameras, were considered bad. Then when you got TV station cameras, again, bad, right? It was always the cheaper, better, faster. People were fearful of, okay, you can do zoom meetings, and you can create content the way we’re creating content right now. But I’m like, that’s always gonna go and get cheaper, better, faster. But to me, still, writing of a book, having written one, that is not a fast process. Making a movie is not a fast process. So I believe the cream does rise to the top with the content that takes longer to make. And if those of us who want authenticity and truth, you’re going to read, you’re going to watch movies, you’re going to watch docs, you’re not going to go to TikTok for your certain types of information. If you want the National Enquirer in an app, you know, go for it. But that’s not real. Yeah.

David Gogel: And do you think that, like, you talk so much about the power of being an outsider, and do you think that being an outsider gives you this special leverage to be able to see the system and say, fuck it, I’m going to go this way because this is the right way. It seems like that’s every step of the way, whether reading the book or following along your journey just from what you see in the trades and stuff like that. It just seems like every time the system was like, hey, this is how it’s done, you were like, no, I can see a different way because I’m not from your world. And again, it’s a roller coaster in the book, but speaking to you now, it’s like all the great success. How has being an outsider? propelled your career forward?

Stacy Spikes: Yeah, I agree. I think when you get to a certain level, and I equate out being an outsider with not having ownership, not owning your own time, not owning your own destiny, not owning your company, not owning your decision making power, you’re an outsider. That’s, that’s what it means to be an outsider. So I think an outsider is a universal thing. You can be in any situation you can be a man in a world that women run you can be a woman in a world that men run you can be a minority in a world that’s not that’s not diverse. So there’s always that outsider scenario but now it’s not really. point of view on things and can often see things that fall outside the norm and can find unique patterns in a world that currently can only see patterns in a certain way. And, you know, I think as far as my career and the whole reason for the book is there’s a really big advantage and there’s three of them for being an outsider. One, there’s very low expectations of your success, okay? So that nobody believes you’re going to disrupt anything. Two, disruption rarely happens inside of very big ivory towers. It doesn’t come from there. It comes from People no one’s paying attention to the third thing is you’re getting time to put many dev cycles. Into trying to get a product right that no one’s paying attention to the right brothers who are bicycle makers were so under finance. In the race for this to be the kings of the skies, that no one took bicycle makers seriously, but because their parts were so cheap, they could do it over and over and over and experiment over and over and over and no one was paying attention. And that’s a lot like why there’s an advantage. to being an outsider. You don’t have the restraints. You’re actually more free to succeed than any other person. If you have a really big family, you got kids, you got a lot of debt, you got a corporation, you got a lot of overhead, you can’t take the same risk. You can’t do the same things that an outsider. Yeah.

David Gogel: I really appreciate you sharing that wisdom, but also being so vulnerable about what it’s like to be an outsider. I know many of us have trouble admitting that we feel like an outsider, especially when we reach a certain level in our career, we feel like we should be expected to kind of present a certain way. And I know when reading your book, one of the things, like I’ve always felt like an outsider. And when you talk about the relationship that you had with Oscar Field as a mentor, I felt like this longing for that kind of relationship. And so I wonder, for those of us that feel like outsiders and maybe are earlier on in our career, do you have any advice for those folks? How do they find their mentor? How do they find their Oscar to help show them the way and teach them the lessons that they need?

Stacy Spikes: Thank you for bringing up Oscar. God, that guy was so, you know, it’s really funny. In the book, I talk about Oscar taught me to always, you know, write letters and use stationery. And especially in this digital age, you know, when people get a handwritten note or a card from me, like here’s literally, you know, movie pass stationery on my desk now in this digital age, And I still have fountain pens where I write handwritten notes because he taught me how to do that. He said, it’s so important to take the time and show people that they matter no matter how big or small. And I would say there’s these really, if you look around, there’s these really wise people. They’re not seeking attention. They’re not calling themselves out. But if you’re really smart, And you nuzzle up to them, they will unload the universe and all of its secrets for you. And nobody’s out there going, Hi, I’m going to be your mentor today. It’s not like that. There’s some programs that will set up that they will kind of force people into that idea. But everywhere you are, that person is available for you and would love to tell you about the world. They feel special because you care about what they think, that their wisdom is of value. And you feel special because you get to download a library of knowledge and intelligence that you wouldn’t otherwise can’t get and find those people and cherish them and they’re all around you. start having the eye to look for them and ask them how their day is and listen to what they have to share. And it’s invaluable. It’s huge. And they’re going to give you the keys to the kingdom. And to this day, there’s things that Oscar taught me that I still do every single day. Oscar taught me read five newspapers a day. I read the Wall Street Journal, I read TechCrunch, I read Engadget, I read New York Times, LA Times every day because of Oscar. I still write personal handwritten notes because of Oscar. I still, when I go and I dress up properly, When I go to certain things, I’m on time because of Oscar. He talked about the importance of respecting other people’s time. That guy is in my DNA now because of what he taught me. And we need more Oscars and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others. in the world.

David Gogel: Yeah, that’s well, it’s well, well said Stacey. And I just, I really want to thank you for your time. I want to thank you for your honesty, um, both in the book and in, in this conversation. I know like we’re all rooting for you, for everybody listening, like please download, download movie pass, vote with your dollar, show the system that this, you know, we want to see this happen. Um, and look forward to seeing all the future success. Stacy, you are amazing.

Stacy Spikes: Awesome. Dave, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Benn Marine: Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. As always, we have links to where you can purchase Stacey’s book and learn more about MoviePass in the show notes, which you can find right in your player. If you’re enjoying this episode of Emerging Hope on the Responsibly Different podcast, let us know and we’ll keep them coming. Simply leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts for Responsibly Different and share with us what you liked most so that we can continue to bring you more of it. It also helps more folks like yourself find this content, which helps us continue to produce it for you. We appreciate you. Till next time, be responsibly different. This content is made possible by Dear Go Collective, a media consultancy on a mission to turn consumers into activists, one purchase at a time. To learn more about Dear Go Collective, visit the link in your show notes. This episode was produced by Brittany Angelo and yours truly, Ben Marine. Music was licensed from B Corp certified Marmoset Music. To access more resources, visit responsiblydifferent.com.