A startup co-founded by a Pratt graduate is partnering with hundreds of movie theaters to sell discount tickets.

Zachary Cancio, Pratt '09, who majored in electrical and computer engineering, is one of the co-founders of Dealflicks. The company, based in Los Angeles, partners with movie theaters to fill their empty seats by selling tickets for up to a 65 percent discount. The company is a part of the 500 Startups accelerator program. Since being founded in July 2012, Dealflicks has partnered with 300 movie theaters nationwide.

“Our goal is really to bring people back to the movies and make sure they have been enjoying that experience without having to worry about other things,” Cancio said.

$40 billion are spent every year on movie tickets, soda and popcorn, but 88 percent of movie theater seats are empty, according to the Dealflicks website. The company negotiates deals with theaters to help them increase ticket sales and at the same time make tickets cheaper for consumers.

The company aims to become the one-stop shop for regular movie-goers, said co-founder Kevin Hong, a graduate from University of California, Riverside.

Hong explained that another co-founder, Sean Wycliffe, who graduated from University of California, Berkeley, came up with the idea as he was watching "The King’s Speech" in a movie theater. Already a fan of Priceline, which helps users purchase cheap airline tickets and hotel stays, Wycliffe wanted to implement a similar idea in the theater industry to sell unsold seats.

Gaining recognition

Dealflicks joined 500 Startups, a seed-fund and accelerator program based in California in September 2012. The program invests in startups and helps them with their design, data management and distribution of products.

“[Joining 500 Startups] was really awesome,” Cancio said. “We learned a lot there.”

He added that the company raised over $1 million after becoming an accelerator company.

“Gaining that amount of growth was nothing easy,” he said. “We’ve achieved a lot.”

Hong added that not only did 500 Startups provide significant resources, but it also helped the company gain brand recognition.

Innovative business model

"No other companies offer discount movie tickets in the way Dealflicks is doing it," Cancio said. “We have a group of salesmen who meet up with different movie theaters and negotiate on deals.”

Dealflicks generally sells tickets at a 30 percent discount, but the deals vary depending on the popularity of the movie, how long the movie has been out and a number of other factors.

The company is currently doing its third Man Van journey, a project that sends a sales team in a van across the country to recruit theaters. The team is constantly moving, sleeping in shifts as they drive to different locations, Public Relations Associate Isabella Gradney wrote in an email last Wednesday.

Hong noted that the Man Van project has tripled the company's sales by allowing the team to meet with as many theater owners across the nation as possible.

“After we signed up 100 theater locations, we found out that only one theater had signed up with no face-to-face interaction,” Hong said. “This was an astounding discovery. We scratched off cold calling as a sales strategy and immediately hit the road.”

Hong said that the key to building a successful startup is to invest in the right team and the right culture.

“It will take you much further than you think,” he said.