The co-founder of MoviePass wants to make going to the movies more affordable, so long as you’re comfortable submitting to mandatory ad watching and creepy surveillance tech. PreShow, an invitation-only service launched by Stacy Spikes, uses facial recognition software to make sure you are actively tuning into a hellacious amount of ads. In return for this indentured consumerism, you get a free movie ticket.
According to the PreShow Kickstarter, which launched on Thursday, the company uses its “proprietary facial identification software” to ensure you actually watch the 15 to 20 minutes of branded content on your device. “The motion detector automatically pauses playback if you have to step away,” according to the project page. “You can resume watching anytime at your leisure.”
It’s not until you’ve watched the entire ad that you’ll be credited your free movie ticket. The Kickstarter page states that privacy is a “top concern” for the company, and that while no users are recorded and no “personally identifiable data is shared,” they can share aggregated and anonymized data to their partners. So your uniquely personal habits may, as they claim, remain private, but the accumulated data still offers brands insight into the behavior of certain groups of people. That’s valuable and exploitable information for a company that profits exactly from that.
“Well, why can’t you have an ad-supported version that will allow you to go to movies for free?” Spikes told TechCrunch.
It’s possible that PreShow is mostly a B2B play to license their watch-the-fucking-ad technology to third parties. In the world of movie business model “disruption,” such licensing is common. Both MoviePass and competitor Sinemia have attempted to do this with their ticket-subscription tech.
Of course, as we’ve increasingly come to understand, “free” is a loaded word when it comes to reaping the benefits in the digital age—a free service oftentimes means sacrificing your time and your privacy. In PreShow’s case, it dangles the promise of a “free” movie-going experience for what’s a stone’s throw from clamping your eyes open to make sure you consume the necessary content.