Since 2000, MovieTickets has been one of the largest online movie ticketing websites in the US, representing an estimated 240 theater chains. MovieTickets earns revenue by sharing service fee proceeds with theater chains in exchange for managing an e-commerce process that includes accepting major credit cards as its individual theater partners allow.
However, consumers have begun to demand more alternatives such as Visa Checkout and MasterPass. With this in mind, MovieTickets was well positioned to expand its payment options to include bitcoin at the request of Open Road Films, the US distributor for independent film Dope, when its creative team sought to use digital currency as a promotional tool.
According to Cohen, although the idea of accepting a digital currency wasn't a priority, it ultimately led to new exposure for his brand. In total, MovieTickets.com now allows movie-goers to purchase tickets to films at more than 900 theaters around the US, and already the firm has seen "several hundred" transactions using bitcoin.
Cohen told CoinDesk:
"I was surprised how well it was embraced and kind of presented in a very positive light. We really got visibility into new audiences."
MovieTickets is perhaps the most mainstream merchant to begin accepting bitcoin payments for some time, as enthusiasm for the use case has been hampered by less-than-expected user adoption of the technology as an e-commerce tool. The company uses GoCoin as a payment processor.
Cohen went on to suggest that, despite this narrative, the program "feels like a success" for MovieTickets, which he argues gained the ability to present itself as an innovative brand.
For now, Cohen doesn't see the number of movie theaters accepting bitcoin through his platform increasing, though he noted the company is "always bringing in new theater chains".
One issue holding back more widespread acceptance, Cohen said, was the steep education process MovieTickets had to engage in with its theater chain partners who ultimately dictate how its consumers can pay at checkout.
"One of our challenges as we embark on digital currencies is educating the 200-plus theater chains that we work with and getting everyone comfortable. They put the trust in us to accept valid payment options and many were unfamiliar with bitcoin, so it took us explaining what the currency was," he explained.
Cohen indicated that this matter was compounded by the lingering associations between digital currencies and illicit activity.
"The past understandings of bitcoin haven't always been positive," he added.
As for any use cases for the technology that would be applicable to the MovieTickets business model, Cohen said that the most interesting one was as an online payment method that could drive sales.
"We're always looking at always to drive ticket sales and it's a valid way of selling tickets, then it just works," Cohen said.
Cohen suggested that he does see a limited use for bitcoin at present, given that consumer adoption of the technology remains in its early stages.
However, he suggested that, over time, bitcoin could perhaps grow to be a more generally accepted payment method.
"It's just like anything else, we need to see people adopt it as generally accepted."
Film reel image via Shutterstock