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Here's how MoviePass works

What does your $10-per-month subscription fee buy you, and what can you expect once you get to the theater?

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These are the two key ingredients for using MoviePass: card and phone.

MoviePass

Good news for film buffs: For $9.95 per month, MoviePass lets you see one movie per day -- in a theater. Pretty much any theater. (Well, maybe not one of AMC's; see below.)

So, what, you just flash your card at the door and then head to the concession stand? There's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a look at how MoviePass really works.

The MoviePass subscription

The service costs $9.95 per month, and will maintain that price for at least the next 12 months, according to a MoviePass blog post. There's no contract; you can cancel at any time via the company's website.

About a week after you sign up, you'll receive a MoviePass card in the mail. This is an actual debit card, the one you'll use to purchase your ticket (see "How you get tickets," below).

What you can watch

MoviePass is good for any movie at any time. You don't have to wait until two weeks after the release date or anything like that. (Yeah, I'm old enough to remember Entertainment Book movie passes.)

However, there are some limitations on movie variables: no 3D, no D-Box, no Imax or anything else that costs more than the price of a regular ticket. You can't just pay the difference, either; MoviePass works with straight-up, no-frills 2D movies and that's it.

Where you can watch

The good news: MoviePass supports 91 percent of movie theaters nationwide. At this writing, however, I've been unable to sign up for an account, and therefore unable to look at the list of theaters in my area -- which is normally accessible via the MoviePass app. (According to the MoviePass FAQ page, you can also find a list on the company's website, but I've yet to locate it.)

The bad news: Not all movie theaters are wild about MoviePass. In fact, AMC has already threatened legal action, according to Variety and other sources. Whether or not it could actually block MoviePass cardholders is another matter; the aforementioned debit card is fundamentally no different than any other, so as long as the chain continues to accept debit cards, subscribers should be good to go.

How you get tickets

Once you've received and activated your MoviePass card, you can sign into the eponymous app (available for Android and iOS). Within that app you'll browse theaters and showtimes, same as you would with, say, Fandango.

One option MoviePass doesn't offer, at least for now, is advance ticketing. You can't jump the line for, say, a midnight Thursday debut of the new "Thor" flick. Instead, the service supports only same-day ticketing.

However, if your theater offers e-ticketing, you can buy your ticket directly via the app -- and choose your seat as well. Once you've completed the transaction, you'll get a barcode good for admission at the theater.

Isn't MoviePass going to lose money?

That's the million-dollar question. If you pay $9.95 per month but use MoviePass for, say, $50 worth of tickets, there's no way the company can survive. However, it plans to generate additional revenue by selling data -- and not just general moviegoer data, but specifics about your viewing habits.

Before you go off in a huff, remember that this is pretty much business as usual these days. Netflix collects subscriber data. Google collects user data. Do you care that anyone finds out you like cheesy rom-coms?

That's up to you to decide. As to whether MoviePass is sustainable, or whether legal action might threaten its long-term viability, that remains to be seen.

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