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All-You-Can-Eat Movie Service MoviePass Launches A Mobile App And Prepaid Debit Cards

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The movie industry is facing a bit of a crisis: Attendance is down, as the high price of going to the movies, combined with a generally crappy selection of films to actually go to, threatens studios and exhibitors. Enter MoviePass, a startup that has created a new business model based around users who love going to the movies.

Instead of paying more than $10 each time they go to the theater, MoviePass has created an all-you-can-eat subscription service for people who love movies. So far, though, the startup has had trouble getting movie theaters on board. So it’s going around them, with the launch of a new model for obtaining movie tickets. Instead of printing out and bringing vouchers to movie theaters, users participating in the MoviePass private beta will have access to a mobile app and prepaid debit cards for purchasing tickets as part of their subscription.

The service works like this: Users pay an upfront subscription fee to MoviePass, which will let them watch basically as many movies as they want during the month. (There’s a limit of one 2-D movie per day.) Membership pricing differs depending on the market that a user lives in and typical ticket prices nearby. Subscriptions cost as little as $24.99 a month for those who live in rural or suburban areas, or as much as $39.99 if they live in pricy cities like New York or Los Angeles. But they average about $29.99 a month.

When subscribers want to watch a movie, users go to the movie theater of their choice — in San Francisco, there are about 40 theaters within a 10-mile radius — and, once they get there, they open up the MoviePass app. Users choose the movie they want to see, and automatically, funds are added to the MoviePass debit card, which they then use to purchase tickets, just like any other debit or credit card. The new system is being used in place of vouchers that MoviePass users previously had to print out and take to theaters, but currently is only available to iPhone users, with Android version coming soon.

The new app and debit cards will be made available to all current members of the MoviePass private beta. And the company will soon make them available to nearly 75,000 users who are part of the company’s wait list. Current members will be able to invite up to 10 friends, and those who don’t have any friends on the service can sign up for the wait list from the MoviePass website.

MoviePass likes to tout the advantages of its all-you-can-eat subscription service, noting that users go to the theaters more often (DUH!) and spend more on concessions when they do so, which is where theaters actually make their money. But most theaters are still wary of the business model, which they argue threatens their pricing power and could devalue their product.

The new version of the service follows about a year of experimenting while MoviePass tries to figure out a business model. The company has raised $1.5 million from investors such as True Ventures, AOL Ventures, William Morris Entertainment, Lambert Media, Nala Pictures, Brian Lee, Diego Berdakin, MJ Eng, Ryan Steelberg, and Adam Lilling.