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Dealflicks, once billed as the Priceline of movie tickets, is no more

Dealflicks, once billed as the Priceline of movie tickets, is no more
Dealflicks co-founders Kevin Hong, left, and Sean Wycliffe, in 2014. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Dealflicks Inc., the start-up once billed as the Priceline of movie ticket sellers, has thrown in the towel after years of struggling to gain traction.

The San Francisco company, which promoted deals on tickets and concessions, sent an email to customers Tuesday saying its service has ended, effective immediately.

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“This is unfortunate news for us to share as we have spent countless hours and effort over the past six years trying to provide the best movie ticket deals to users across the U.S.,” Dealflicks said. “However, at this time, we are unable to continue to operate moving forward based on our financial situation.”

Co-founder and Chief Executive Sean Wycliffe did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An email to the company’s support line bounced back.

Founded in 2012, Dealflicks aimed to partner with theaters to offer discounts of as much as 60% on movie tickets and concessions during periods when theaters are mostly vacant. In its early days, the founders promoted the service by driving around the country in a converted Toyota Sienna to visit local theaters.

The company, which started in Los Angeles, offered savings on tickets by selling vouchers and by combining ticket sales with deals on concessions. Part of its goal was to eventually offer discounts on the tickets themselves, but that idea didn’t appeal to exhibitors, which have long resisted so-called dynamic pricing.

Dealflicks was embraced early on by some smaller chains, including Bow Tie Cinemas, which operates in New York, New Jersey and Virginia. This year, it launched an online discount service with B&B Theatres, the nation's seventh-largest cinema chain.

But the struggles continued. In February, Dealflicks was available for only 3,000 screens, a small fraction of the roughly 40,000 movie screens in North America. It suffered a major blow in 2016 when its largest partner, Carmike Cinemas, was acquired by AMC Theatres, leaving Dealflicks with 250 fewer theaters in its network.

Dealflicks' revenue for 2017 was estimated to be about $2 million, down sharply from $3.7 million in 2016, partly because of the loss of Carmike locations.

Though it showed early potential, Dealflicks’ coupon-based model probably suffered from the recent explosion in subscription services, led by the cash-burning growth of New York-based MoviePass. About 3 million people signed up for MoviePass — which lets subscribers see a movie a day — after it cut its monthly fee to $9.95.

AMC Theatres recently launched its own $20 monthly subscription plan, which drew 175,000 subscribers in its first five weeks.

Wycliffe in February told The Times he hoped Dealflicks would serve as an appealing middle ground between the cheap MoviePass subscriptions, which were widely viewed as unsustainable, and regular tickets sold on Fandango and Atom Tickets. The average ticket price for the U.S. and Canada hit another record in the second quarter of 2018, reaching $9.38, according to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners.

“We appreciate your support and patronage over the years, and we hope that our original vision of the industry will somehow continue to move forward in our [absence],” Dealflicks said in its customer email.

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