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Netflix for theaters? New service lets you watch 'unlimited' new releases for $10 a month

Netflix for theaters? New service lets you watch 'unlimited' new releases for $10 a month
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Do you still love catching movies in, you know, actual movie theaters? Maybe it's the smell of popcorn or the dim lights, or the big screen and the big sound, or even that communal feeling of watching a film with a crowd of perfect strangers is what keeps you coming back to the good old multiplex.

Despite competition from affordable home theater rigs and numerous home video options, for many, nothing can yet quite compare with the real movie theater experience. Real-life queues, cold seats and theater chatterboxes notwithstanding, nothing can stop big screen fans from venturing out to the theaters to watch the latest flicks.

Not quite. If there's one thing that can stop even the most die-hard theater fan, it's this - rising movie ticket prices.

One company is seeking to change that and it's now offering a way to get movie tickets that, honestly, sounds too good to be true.

MoviePass

MoviePass just announced that it dropped its no-contract monthly movie theater subscription plan to $9.95. And what does this subscription let you do exactly?

Well, for that low monthly price, this service will allow its subscribers to catch one movie a day at an actual theater. Yep, with MoviePass,  you can theoretically watch up to 31 movies (excluding 3D and IMAX viewings) in actual theaters in more than 4,000 locations across the U.S. for the price of one average movie ticket. Sounds crazy? You betcha but it's true.

MoviePass, which is led by Netflix co-founder and former Redbox president Mitch Lowe, has actually been around since 2011 and a subscription used to cost as much as $50 a month. However, in an obvious effort to draw more subscribers, this is the first time it cut its rate this low.

According to Lowe, "MoviePass was founded to make it easier for passionate moviegoers and casual fans to see films the way they’re meant to be seen — in the theater."

This is how it's supposed to work.

Once you sign up for a monthly subscription, MoviePass will send you your own debit card in about five to seven business days. You will also need to download the MoviePass app on your iPhone or Android smartphone to locate nearby affiliated theaters.

To get tickets for a particular movie, you will have to check in with the MoviePass app when you're within 100 yards of the theater, then choose the desired movie and showtime through the app. (3D and IMAX movies are exempt.)

Once checked in and your choice has been entered, your debit card will be automatically loaded with the price of the movie ticket and you can use it regularly to purchase your ticket at the theater box office.

Are there limits or restrictions? As I mentioned before, the limit is one movie per calendar day and tickets bought through your subscription are non-transferable, meaning if you want to regularly do a date night with your significant other, you'll need two separate MoviePass accounts. But still, that's a lot of movies for $10.

According to MoviePass, right now, the service is accepted in more than 33,000 movie theaters across the country and that's about 91 percent of all the theaters in the U.S., including theater chains like Cinemark, AMC, Regal and other smaller chains.

I know, at that price, it sounds hard to resist, but signing up right now can be a bit of a challenge since the MoviePass website is excruciatingly slow these past few days. Owing to its new subscription model, maybe it's because the company's servers are getting overwhelmed with so much traffic from people wanting to sign up right now.

Controversy

Due to this surge in popularity, there were a few key developments that might ruin the MoviePass party.

First, AMC is looking for ways to block the MoviePass service from their theaters since the theater chain thinks the new price point is "unsustainable." Right now, AMC is still part of the service but that might change soon.

Second, it appears that data firm Helios and Matheson now have a 51 percent majority stake in MoviePass. This means that they could fund the venture and offset the losses the company will sustain with data mining and by selling this information to third-party advertisers. It also looks like the company is planning to go public next year and this price cut is one good way to build its subscription base.

At any rate, privacy and sustainability concerns aside, MoviePass' recent bold move is surely rattling the movie, and especially the theater, industry right now. It's interesting how this disruptive service, which could very well be the "Netflix of theaters" will keep evolving in the coming months and years.

Do you want to try this service out? Check out the MoviePass website to sign up and for more details. (Warning: due to current traffic, it may load slower than usual.)

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