In the ebb and flow of buzz-worthy or even controversial subjects that become a part of our industry’s news cycle there have been few in recent years that have attracted more heated debate than release windows and subscription moviegoing.
It’s often easy to forget while we’re prognosticating at trade conferences or taking editorial jabs at them in press analysis that there are real people behind the companies being discussed. And it should go without saying that the people within each company help define its corporate culture.
With this in mind I wanted to relay a story I heard Bernadette McCabe tell recently. Formerly with Screenvision Media, McCabe is now Senior Vice President, Exhibitor Relations and Business Strategy at MoviePass, a company that has created its own share of headlines over the past year as it became an punching bag for both our industry and the public-at-large.
I met McCabe at the Geneva Convention in Wisconsin where she was participating in a panel on, what else, subscription based memberships, which I was moderating. At the time, she kindly invited me to attend the Women In Entertainment Summit being held on 11 October at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. MoviePass was one of the sponsors of the event. I immediately accepted the invitation (for which I am grateful).
As is often the case, when the date for such conferences is upon us, we’re reticent to take a whole day off fearing the work we’re leaving behind will only pile higher and that the amount of unopened email in our inbox may finally cause a server in some far-off data center to overheat and explode. Still, I knew the summit would be interesting and worthwhile. What I never really thought about was that I would be one of the only men among 500+ women in attendance. If you think that sounds like an ideal situation, trust me, it’s more daunting in reality.
It was in that setting of female empowerment that McCabe appeared on another panel titled “Driving Engagement & Storytelling,” which focused not only on marketing through community building and interaction, but also the professional history of each panelist. Joining McCabe onstage were Tina Exarhos, the Chief Content Officer at NowThis, Natascha French, the Chief Marketing Officer at VNTANA, Claudine Cazian Britz, the Head of Entertainment Partnerships at Instagram, Dalia Ganz, the Vice President of Social Media, Digital Marketing and Synergy at Freeform.
Erica Anderson, who works in brand marketing at Universal Pictures, moderated the panel and asked McCabe to explain how she wound up at MoviePass since it was a job she almost passed up. Here is the story McCabe told:
“MoviePass is a company I’d known for a number of years. It was a much smaller company. In August of 2017 the price dropped to $9.95 and it instantly became headline news. I’ve known the co-founders for a very long time. In early October one of the co-founders reached out to me and said, ‘I think now is really the time that you need to join us. We really need somebody like you.’ I had a nine-month-old son and I was four months pregnant,” McCabe said, causing a ripple of gasps through an audience of women no doubt picturing themselves dealing with two toddlers with an 14-month age difference.
“I just said, ’Thank you, it’s not the right time for me personally. I have lots of people you can talk to.’ And the co-founder said, ‘You’re right for the job and just because you’re pregnant doesn’t make you any less right,” as if on cue McCabe’s words caused the attendees to let out a long “awe” in unison.
“If you’re talking about a moment that changed you’re life, that’s when I thought, ‘I have to be a part of this. I need to be a part of this incredible organization.’ This has been the most challenging time, if anyone follows my company,” she continued generating knowing laughs. “And I’ve had two young children during this period of time as well, but it’s also been the most exhilarating. What I have learned and what I feel I have achieved and accomplished and what I think my contributions can be to whatever I do next in my career, that moment and that one line…”
McCabe’s words trailed off as she interrupted herself for the briefest of moments. “I’m embarrassed now to say I wasn’t going to do that because I thought I had a limitation in being pregnant. I’m embarrassed at myself for that. But now I’m really proud that I did that and I’m proud of the company that I work for that embraces women. Because just as our careers are often really taking off, it also might be the time where we are choosing to have families. It shouldn’t be something that is one or the other. We can have both. I think that’s a really fascinating thing to learn about myself and I’m very proud to work for a company that’s very supportive of that.”
While there may be disagreement within the industry about the MoviePass business model, it’s longterm feasibility or the stock price of its parent company, I’m fairly certain we can all agree McCabe has no need to feel embarrassed and, if anything, thank her for sharing another side of a company we have all come to know for other reasons.