Start-up tinkers with all-you-can-eat in-theater movies

MoviePass is offering all-you-can-eat movie viewing at theaters. But don't compare the service with Netflix. At $600 a year, a person really has to <i>love</i> movies to make this service pay off.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read

A start-up service called MoviePass is offering film fans unlimited movie viewing in theaters for a fee of $50 a month.

Wired.com reports that Moviepass will soon enable users to use a smartphone to search for a film, check show times, and provide proof of purchase with ticket takers. The service was announced Monday and is set to launch in a test version in the San Francisco Bay area in time for the July 4th weekend.

This would appear to be a convenience play. Pay a monthly fee in advance, and MoviePass will remove much of the ticket-buying hassle. But in tough economic times, convenience takes a backseat to price. And MoviePass's offer looks like it might provide good value to someone like Roger Ebert or some other film critic who watches hundreds of movies a year. For anybody else, watching enough movies to make it worthwhile would be difficult--and then there's the question of whether there are enough quality films available.

Just watching a movie doesn't provide any benefit if it's a stinker.

MoviePass seems to be out of step with recent trends. First, for those people looking for a bargain, Netflix is the hottest Web distributor of video rentals. Pay $8 a month, or $96 a year, and you can stream an unlimited number of the films or TV shows in Netflix's growing library via the Web. When it comes to appealing to niche groups of film buffs who will pay extra for added convenience, then MoviePass must go head to head with premium video on demand, or PVOD.

PVOD is a plan by the Hollywood studios to offer films for home viewing while they're still playing in the theaters. PVOD films will typically be available for the home about two months after they debut in theaters and will cost around $30 per movie. A typical movie plays in theaters for about three months. In April, DirecTV became the first service to offer PVOD.

It's hard to see what MoviePass offers that's worth $600.