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UPDATE 1-Helios and Matheson reaps benefits of MoviePass frenzy

Kitco News

(Adds share price, data on short positions, Citron comments)

By Supantha Mukherjee and Arjun Panchadar

Oct 11 (Reuters) - Bets on the future of an investment in a Netflix-style movie subscription business sent shares in previously little-known IT firm Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc soaring again on Wednesday.

With another 30 percent jump on Wednesday, the IT firm's shares have sky-rocketed more than 1000 percent since Aug. 15, when it agreed to buy a majority stake in online ticketing service, MoviePass, for $27 million.

The service, led by former Netflix vice president Mitch Lowe, is seeking to spur the sort of revolution for movie theaters that Ryanair did for airlines or Netflix did for video streaming.

Its alliance with Helios and Matheson began in August when MoviePass slashed all its variable subscription fees in favor of a single $9.95 model, allowing unlimited access to more than 90 percent of U.S. theaters.

In the month that followed, MoviePass subscriber numbers rose to over 400,000 from less than 20,000. ( )

Maxim Group analyst Brian Kinstlinger said that meant the company's estimate of another 2.5 million subscribers over the next twelve months may be conservative.

"With the undeniable value proposition for moviegoers, and as more than 37 million people see at least one movie per month, we believe that estimate could prove conservative," Kinstlinger wrote in a research note dated Oct. 2.

He started coverage of Helios with a "buy" rating. MoviePass plans to go public by March 31, 2018.

One catch is that while its customers will be paying a flat monthly rate, MoviePass will pay the full price of movie tickets to theaters. That means it will post considerable losses over the next two years, and hope to make money from an eventual large user base, Kinstlinger said.

Short-seller Citron Research said on its Twitter handle that it expected Helios shares to retreat to $20, and the stock did briefly fall back below $30 before swiftly rising around 30 percent to $36.45.

Helios and Matheson stock is heavily shorted, data from shows, and that as of Oct. 11, short interest stood at 62 percent of the company's float.

That could mean that investors who were shorting the stock in the past, betting that shares would fall, are being squeezed into buying the shares currently, adding to the scale of the move.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Bernard Orr)

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