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Startup incubator YouWeb has launched a new iPhone app called MoviePal that lets you identify and find trailers on the web while sitting in a movie theater.

The app is aimed at creating a social experience around watching, capturing, and sharing movie trailers. MoviePal lets you identify a movie trailer, much like the Shazam app helps you recognize songs that are playing.

The app uses your iPhone’s audio recording function to record about 10 seconds of sounds from the movie trailer. It then identifies the movie and retrieves it for you to view on your mobile phone. Then you can tag and archive the movie trailer, watch it again, share it with your friends (even if they don’t have the app) and set up a time to meet once the film opens.

The app is the latest project to come out of Burlingame, Calif.-based YouWeb, which has created numerous social startups including CrowdStar, Sibblingz, OpenFeint, iSwifter and Pluto Games. OpenFeint was acquired for $104 million. MoviePal is the first incubation that has nothing to do with games.

Peter Relan, chairman of YouWeb, said in an interview that it fits with the company’s strategy of finding ideas in the converging gaming, education and entertainment markets.

“So far, movies trailers have not been a very social experience,” Relan said. “But movie trailers are a $4 billion TV ad industry. We can make that social.”

MoviePal is useful whether you are in a movie theater or not. With MoviePal, you can discover movies playing in a theater near you and watch trailers for the upcoming films.

Sharing can be done via text messages, email, Facebook or Twitter. You can get an alert when a movie you tagged comes out in theaters. And you can keep track of the movies you’ve watched.

“The multi-billion dollar film industry focuses on the instant rush of excitement, suspense or horror that can be communicated in 30 seconds from a movie trailer,” says co-founder, Suneet Shah. “Until now, there hasn’t been a way to truly capture that excitement and put it in your pocket for later.”

MoviePal is the brainchild of founders Shah and Rohan Relan (Peter’s nephew), both entrepreneurs in residence at YouWeb. Peter Relan said the startup came from observing that consumers are increasingly turning to a “dual screen” experience, where they watch TV on a big screen and surf the web at the same time on a smartphone or tablet. The MoviePal team figured out how to apply that to movies, where you are watching trailers on a big screen and can use your phone for sharing.

The MoviePal database already includes a library of 500 movie trailers and the company adds more as they come out.

Rival services include Shazam, which started with identifying songs and has now moved to movies, and MovieGoer, a free iOS app from California-based Nettle, Inc.

Shazam has taken an e-commerce approach, pushing advertising offers to users once they use Shazam to identify a movie. Shazam also has a smaller library of movies so far and it has to work with studios. Another company, IntoNow, has a dual-screen TV sharing experience. You tap a button, it recognizes the show, and you can share it with friends.


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