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Bye bye Movies Now
Today is a sad day, a very sad one indeed.
We first launched Movies Now on the 27th of May 2009 when the App Store was about 6 months old. It was just Namit and I back then. We were just a bunch of kids in our final year of an engineering degree trying to build something to get a kick out of. Who knew that this was the best thing to ever happen to us. I’ve known Namit for about 6 years now, we studied at the same high school and ended up at Imperial College London, both ambitious and passionate about what we did.
We spent most of our final year developing Movies Now. Namit took the lead on the code while I did most of the UI. We worked with a bunch of smart people along the way some of whom we still work with on a part-time basis. On the UX front, we initially worked with two designers – Zack Schiller and Henri Liriani. Zack started us off and once Henri took over we knew that Movies Now was going to be one heck of an application. I must mention this kid – 15 years old at the time, a typical teenager, stubborn, strong headed and very opinionated. At the time, I thought we were crazy to work with him but looking back, it was probably the best decision we made. The kid was great and we learnt a lot of things that we still use today to design our UI. My personal favourite of Movies Now was the poster view. It was stunning. Took us 3 months to build the damn thing but it was totally worth it.
Its been a tough, bumpy road over the last two years. We ended up launching Movies Now 2 in June 2010, with the aim of making a business out of what we were passionate about – building things and in particular building things for mobile.
We completely revamped the back-end making version 2 over a 100% faster than its predecessor! It was the same beautiful Movies Now just a lot faster and a lot simpler. Movies Now 2, came with the iPad version which was even more stunning than the iPhone app. We brought back the Poster View and it was nothing short of gorgeous. Movies Now 2 came @ $0.99 and we offered free upgrades to our loyal Movies Now 1 users.
The app quickly shot through the rankings and was sitting at #11 overall in the iPad App Store and #45 overall in the iPhone App Store – we were ecstatic. Movies Now 2 was charting higher than we ever thought and at this point was also making us enough money to support the app. And then the App Store dynamics kicked in. The app spent about two weeks at the top of the charts and suddenly ‘dropped off a cliff’. The next week we were nowhere to be seen and a few short (but expensive!) marketing campaigns did nothing short of spiking our downloads for a few days.
At this point, we knew that selling the app was not the right way to go as there were plenty of other alternatives in the App Store that had similar functionality. So on Thanksgiving day we made the App Free.
Over the next few months we were very fortunate that Apple picked us as one of the ten App Store essential movie going apps. They did so again but in a different feature titled ‘Apps for Movie Lovers’. Our downloads shot through the roof up 700% week on week and this re-enforced our belief in the app. We spent the next few months searching for a business model and we thought we had found one. We went out for the first time and spoke to the theatre chains (cinemas) all across the globe, something we should’ve done a lot sooner and realised that we were in a fantastic position to solve a serious problem that each and every single one of them faced namely ‘How do they increase occupancy in cinemas?’. I talked to people in the US, UK and even India where Bollywood is huge. The potential for this was massive and we had a new spark ignited in us.
We quickly began work on a new Ad platform for the cinemas and demoed a simple V1 that the execs at the cinema chains were blown away by. We would drive up occupancy at cinemas based on three factors – time left for a movie, occupancy % and user’s taste profile. It was brilliant but our timing couldn’t have been worse. We had lost hope in the US market as it was extremely tough to work with an aggregator on such a platform and we were simply too late in the UK. The cinemas had already launched their own apps in the market and in India there were just not enough smart phones to justify a business case.
This was it, our final stand and we knew what came next. The licensing fees for Movies Now was expensive (!!) and we just couldn’t keep it running anymore. So on 1st April, 2011 we took the call to shut down Movies Now.
We’ve made mistakes, a lot of them but I can’t tell you how much we’ve all learnt out of this experience. We come out of this a lot smarter, bolder and more ambitious. Passionate as ever and wanting to work on bigger more ground-breaking ideas and thats exactly what we’re doing. I would love to share more with you and will do so at a more appropriate time.
Its been a wonderful but tough ride over the last few years and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. Today is a sad day, a very sad one indeed. We say good bye to a fantastic, beautiful piece of art we call Movies Now.
R.I.P. Movies Now
co-founder, Movies Now