Netflix’s all-you-can-watch model works so fantastically for so many cinephiles, it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to do the same with films still in theaters. Enter MoviePass, a new service which will allow subscribers to watch an unlimited number of theatrical releases for just $50 a month. Not too shabby, if you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies at least once a week. Hit the jump for details.

Through MoviePass (via Wired) subscribers will be able to find showtime listings and purchase tickets on their smartphones, and then use their smartphones as tickets to get into the actual film. The $50 gets subscribers as many movies as they can watch, though 3-D and IMAX films will incur an additional $3 surcharge. In addition, MoviePass will offer customers early looks at new trailers, occasional invites to promotional screenings, and the opportunity to pre-order DVDs “as soon as they walk out of the theater.”

Of course, MoviePass won’t be for everyone — at least not yet. I suspect many of you watch enough movies to make the subscription fees worth it, but I have plenty of non-cinephile friends who only catch movies in the theater once a month or so; the service would be extremely cost-inefficient for them. Moviegoers who live in areas where movies aren’t as expensive, or who usually get student or senior discounts, would also be less likely to benefit from the service. MoviePass will probably be most useful for cinema-obsessed folks who have several local theaters, as opposed to those who only have one major theater in their immediate area. But if MoviePass does well in its initial launch, I’m sure the company will keep looking for ways to expand its appeal. A “limited pass” plan is currently being developed, which would allow subscribers four movies a month for $30.

If MoviePass takes off, it could be great news for studios and theaters as well as audiences. Studios would have the opportunity to promote their films to exactly the kind of people who actually buy tickets and DVDs, and the flat fee could encourage filmgoers to check out films they might otherwise skip. Larger audiences would also be great for theaters, who earn more money from concessions the more people actually show up to the theater.

MoviePass beta is set to launch Wednesday with 21 Bay Area theaters (see list below), and then expand to other U.S. cities over the next few months. The company is targeting a fall date for a national launch. The current goal for the service is to offer access to 40% of all U.S. theaters at that point.

Here are the Bay Area theaters that will participate in Wednesday’s beta launch:

  • Albany Twin, Albany
  • California Theatres, Berkeley
  • Shattuck Cinemas, Berkeley
  • Camera 7, Campbell
  • AMC Cupertino Square 16, Cupertino
  • AMC Bay Street 16, Emeryville
  • Camera Cinemas, Los Gatos
  • Piedmont Theatre, Oakland
  • Aquarius, Palo Alto
  • The Clay, San Francisco
  • Bridge, San Francisco
  • Lumiere, San Francisco
  • Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • Opera Plaza Cinemas, San Francisco
  • AMC Van Ness 14, San Francisco
  • Big Cinemas Towne 3, San Jose
  • Camera 3, San Jose
  • Camera 12, San Jose
  • AMC Eastridge 15, San Jose
  • AMC Saratoga 14, San Jose
  • AMC Mercado 20, Santa Clara

Discuss: Will you sign up for MoviePass when it comes to your town? I’m curious to see which of the NYC theaters they’ll actually sign up for the service — if too many of my favorite indie theaters are out, I would be less likely to join. If any you Bay Area folks try the service out in the next couple of days, please share your thoughts in the comments.

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