MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics (NASDAQ: HMNY) is becoming a hard company to believe at face value. The stock took off last week after Helios and Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth announced that it had raised $65 million in new financing last month. His comments -- made during TheGrill conference in California on Tuesday -- seem to back his assertion that MoviePass and Helios and Matheson won't be filing for bankruptcy anytime soon despite burning through more money than it's been taking in over the past year.
Helios and Matheson stock would go on to hit its highest level since mid-August, only to shed more than half of the week's peak value after clarifying those conference remarks. An SEC filing on Thursday explained that the money was raised through August and September, not a single month as Farnsworth suggested. More importantly, the money was raised through stock sales as part of its ongoing at-the-market offering and the prepayments of notes payable. In short, it wasn't as if MoviePass found an institutional investor or sugar daddy willing to write a big fat check to keep the money-slurping model going for a few more months. Investors keep getting diluted, and MoviePass isn't any closer to finding the right balance between pleasing its members and running a sustainable business.
Waiting for the bloopers reel
We're still a few weeks away from knowing how MoviePass is fundamentally holding up. How many of the 3.2 million members that it had on its program in mid-August were still around by the end of September after MoviePass radically ruptured the value proposition of its service? How much of the $65 million that it raised during the final two months of the quarter did it blow through? How many new shares -- more or less than a billion -- did it have to issue?
The silver lining here is that $65 million, or whatever is left, could actually go a long way to giving the more restrictive MoviePass model, where folks are capped at three movies a month, a chance. It also likely has a lot fewer subscribers to subsidize.
MoviePass as a platform is retreating at a terrible time. Rival Sinemia -- smelling blood in the water -- has gotten aggressive, rolling out its own plan that includes unlimited daily screenings like the old MoviePass. Multiplex giant AMC Entertainment (NYSE: AMC) has also benefited from a reeling MoviePass, attracting 380,000 film buffs to its movie subscription service in just three months.
Last week's news was a mixed bag. If media reports misheard or mischaracterized Farnsworth's comments, shame on journalists. If he actually did make it seem as if MoviePass had just secured $65 million in new financing, shame on him. It wouldn't be the first time that MoviePass or Helios and Matheson make bold statements that they have to dial back. They've had to clarify comments about their member-tracking practices and we're still waiting for new services that were promised months ago. Farnsworth is right that MoviePass is here now, but it's hard to believe that it won't just keep fading in the present until there is no future.
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