Showtimes a few days before?
January 28, 2013 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Movie theaters seem to only post show times on their websites for Friday-Thursday on Friday which makes it difficult to make advance plans for Friday night. Is there some other website/service that posts the times earlier? (I vaguely remember finding some site that did that, but I can't find it now). Also, why do theaters do things this way?

I'm in the DC/MD area if it matters.
posted by bluefly to Media & Arts (14 answers total)
Seems like does this.
posted by troywestfield at 7:31 AM on January 28, 2013

The problem is that most movie theaters only get their next weeks booking on Tue or Wed of that week so unless its like a Mega-Blockbuster/holiday movie weekend often even they won't know what will be playing and the times for the weekend shows till say mid-week.
posted by Captain_Science at 7:36 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I don't know about theaters themselves, but almost every third-party source for showtimes (Google, fandango, Apple's Trailers app...) shows times at least a few days in advance, including the upcoming Friday.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:36 AM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: They (MSN) don't seem to have the times for my local AMC for this weekend. Maybe, the theater didn't provide that info?
posted by bluefly at 7:37 AM on January 28, 2013

Different theaters in my area provide different levels of advance notice - most of them will tell you on Tuesday or Wednesday what movies are going to be playing on Friday but some don't tell you until Thursday or Friday. The third-party information never seems to be any more updated than the direct-from-the-theater info in my experience.
posted by mskyle at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2013

It would help if you told us what movie theater you go to, but you could try Fandango. However for my local theater I have found that Fandango can only post the times when the theater does, so I never use it. I go to my theater's website directly.
posted by signondiego at 7:49 AM on January 28, 2013

In high school, many many moons ago, I worked as a ticket taker/usher at a movie theater. If the movie was playing last weekend, it often repeats the times the following weekend. Except of course if another blockbuster came out that week.

Here is what I remember as the criteria for movie times. First, it is very dependent on how many other movies are playing. While obviously nowhere near as complicated, it is like scheduling planes for airport gates. The theater usually does not want to start two movies, or at least two popular/new movies, at the same time. There would be crowd issues in the lobby and then at the over priced candy stand. (Big money maker for theaters - duh) They try to stagger them by around 15+/- minutes. They obviously want to get as many showings in as possible. For most movies, there will be a showing that starts with a 5, 7, and 9 handle. (e.g. 5:10, 7:15 and 9:30). This is obviously dependent on a few other things such as parking and staggering the parking, size of theaters, numbers of screens and length movie has been out.

Especially for the 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock shows, we as ushers were made keenly aware that most patrons would either be rushing from some dinner plans or to some dinner plans.

This may sound obvious, but the easiest way to get advance warning on movie start times (and run times -- are there trailers, ads, etc and how long will they be?) is to simply call the theater and ask. Most of the time you need to get past the tape of the time listings, but there will be a way to speak to a human. Call after noon.

I know you are in the DC area, but in general, depending on the size of the screening room, how long a movie has been out and the weather, some smaller theaters will delay a start for a few minutes or run extra trailers. I go to a theater in the ADK's (upstate NY) that has even held the start for 7 minutes while I made it there through the snow. I called and asked. We ended up being 4 of the 10 people in the show. If it is just a big chain like AMC theater, they will try to run on time every time bc of the fore mentioned dinner plans.

Back in my day, they counted cups for a way to track inventory or sales of both popcorn and soda. If you were a friend of mine you would know to bring your own plastic cup and your own small bucket for popcorn. The butter like product, Durkee Dressall was all you could stand.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:56 AM on January 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

Most of the theater chains operate their own website that acts as a regular movie/tickets website, but only for their own venues. might have what you need.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:57 AM on January 28, 2013

I and my movie going friends consistently used the Internet Movie Database's showtimes listing. Just input your area code up at the time and you should get a list. IMDb also has an app, which does the same, works great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:49 AM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: The problem is that most movie theaters only get their next weeks booking on Tue or Wed of that week so unless its like a Mega-Blockbuster/holiday movie weekend often even they won't know what will be playing and the times for the weekend shows till say mid-week.

Interesting. I guess I thought the big chains like AMC would know their schedules weeks in advance.
And thanks JohnnyGunn for your wonderful description of the intricacies of movie scheduling!
posted by bluefly at 8:58 AM on January 28, 2013

I believe Fandango can do this. At least, for some theaters and movies there will be a note that says "Starting February 1", or the like.

Also, you can typically buy advance tickets, so even if there's no timetable of upcoming schedules, you can buy a ticket for Movie 43 at 7pm next Friday, if you really hate yourself that much.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on January 28, 2013

My local (Milwaukee) AMC and Landmark theaters list the upcoming weekend's showtimes on their websites on Wednesdays every week. In my experience, third-party showtime/ticket sites are about a day behind.
posted by wolfnote at 1:16 PM on January 28, 2013

Call the theater or check their website. A lot of the time, even IF a theater has a pretty good idea that they will be getting a particular film, they'll still got to wait for regional or corporate headquarters to set the specific showtimes.

Another problem with posting showtimes earlier, either in a newspaper or online, is that plenty of people will not bother looking at the DATES..... they'll see something posted and just ASSUME it is for today, then go to the theater and bitch that "but I saw that movie posted for 7pm today!" No matter how often they might see notices that a movie will be out on, say, Memorial Day, I can guarentee you someone WILL complain that they want to see that movie NOW, in January. So, as you can imagine, they'll also easily mix up Friday or Sunday showtimes. (Heck, at a two-screen theater I used to work at? We had a couple threaten to SUE us because they were demanding to watch a movie they swore was in our *seventh* autotorium..... Sheesh.)
posted by easily confused at 5:23 PM on January 28, 2013

Best answer: Late Tuesday or even Wednesday are the earliest movie showtimes are known for the upcoming weekend. The theater's own website will have the showtimes listed first.

Here's how I know this. I was a movie theatre manager for many years at several huge theatre complexes and I use to set showtimes. Here's how it generally works: Your corporate booker (booking department) works to secure the films constantly but generally the titles and number of prints/screens is only decided on the Monday (before a Friday release) so Monday night/Tuesday are spent selecting showtimes at a theatre level (unless there is a specific booking requirement to have Blockbuster X show at 700 730 800 1000 1030 which was not very common). The theatre manager selects showtimes based on screen size, staffing and movie end times to make sure start and ending times are staggered for crowd control and line control etc. The new releases are given the "prime" start times and films carried over from the previous weeks are slotted in around them. This process takes hours but is usually finished Tuesday when the showtimes are published to our own corporate website and ticket sales partners. Sometimes this can take until Wednesday to be "live". Sites like MSN content scrape our corporate sites for the showtimes so I will tell you what I would tell my guests who had the wrong showtimes, our website is the only source that we control and will be the most accurate and up to date showtime listing.

For added info, the staff schedules are only made on Tuesday so most employees don't even find out until late Tuesday night or even Wednesday if they are working that Friday. Managers schedules were usually completed Monday so, bonus! Even stock is ordered Tuesday for Friday delivery.
posted by saradarlin at 12:21 AM on January 29, 2013

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