All I wanted was a plaintext movie listings website...
December 27, 2016 4:01 PM   Subscribe

It turns out I cherished as my go-to location to look at movie times. It was up to date, had no frippery, and was fast, and now the jerkwads at Google have shut it down. What can I use instead? I want to set my location, and I want to see theaters and movies and today's times, I want it all in as plain black and white, a poster thumbnail is acceptable. I want to see all the movies playing today and nothing else, ideally on as few pages as practical. The aesthetic I seek is craigslist, but for movies.

Here's the notice the aforementioned jerkwads at Google left on
Thanks for stopping by.

Google Showtimes was discontinued on November 1, 2016. You can now discover showtimes on the search results page by searching for the name of the movie you want to see or try searching for the word “movies” to discover what’s in theaters.


The Google Showtimes team
Contenders that suck:
Yahoo Movies: WALL OF POSTERS and no times
Moviefone: why is everything so large?
Fandango App: shows me ads all over, does not give me a sense of every title actually available and shows me posters for things not even out yet
Fandango website: same as Moviefone, really

posted by artlung to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
In my area, I use the local newspaper's website, which is still better than anything else. Assuming your profile location is correct, I googled "san diego newspaper movie times" and got this page from the San Diego Reader that may get you close to what you want? If that's not your area, I still recommend searching "[your area] showtimes" or something to find local sites that do this better than the national ones.
posted by brainmouse at 4:08 PM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are some not-terrible sites such as The BigScreen Movie Guide that may or may not provide adequate coverage of your area (obDisclosure I knew the guy who runs that many years ago). I hear it has gotten a lot harder to run this sort of service as theaters look to force you to their own websites or apps in order to avoid paying third parties. I believe TBSMG has some options to avoid graphics if you sign in with an account, but it has been years since I've done so.
posted by jgreco at 4:22 PM on December 27, 2016

Response by poster: brainmouse, that site is fairly meh, but is better than the ones i mentioned.

jgreco is that if so looks like i can't see a simple listing of theaters with movies and times unless i register or drill *all the way* in to an individual theater.

thanks though, this is stoking my rage at Google, which might make me put on my thinking cap. Perhaps I'll work on a greasemonkey script/css customizer to decrapify whatever site ends up having the best data per page.
posted by artlung at 4:28 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not as barebones as you'd prefer, but IMDB does do fairly sparse listings by zip: example.
posted by bluecore at 5:10 PM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was also going to suggest IMDB. I'm surprised Duck Duck Go hasn't tackled this - seems like an ideal application, but maybe there is no good free source of the movie listing data.
posted by COD at 7:08 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Perhaps I'll work on a greasemonkey script/css customizer to decrapify whatever site ends up having the best data per page.

If you do this, please share it! I too learned today that it was shut down and was equally appalled. Since I'm lucky enough to live in a town with rep theaters, the only good way to see the full range of films available to me was Google Showtimes.
posted by praemunire at 7:26 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Google has been shifting this sort of thing into the first few search results. It's pretty good at deciphering what I'm after and then serving up a relevant segment of the results as a plain-text nugget of info at the top of the results page. I started noticing it after the "OK Google" recording started reading them as answers when I was searching for something hands-free. You'd ask it a question "OK Google.... What's the biggest pit mine in the United States?" and it serves up the usual search results but also a snippet of text from the Wikipedia page for the correct answer.

Anyway, all this to say that if you use Chrome and allow Google to know your location, all you have to do to get what you're looking for is type (or say) [MOVIE NAME] show times and it lets you see a bunch of theaters and the relevant show times in a simple little grid. I mean, I understand you're upset but is there a reason I'm missing that Google's suggested solution isn't going to work for you?
posted by carsonb at 7:44 PM on December 27, 2016

I tried "local movie time" and Google asked to confirm my location but also showed me a side-scrolling list of movie posters for all the films in theaters presently. When you choose a film it shoes the same results as I mentioned above, and keeps the side-scrolling list if you want to choose another film. It's pretty elegant.
posted by carsonb at 7:47 PM on December 27, 2016

Response by poster: carson b your use case presumes I always start my movie watching by deciding what movie title I want to watch. Fuck that, I want to look at the whole menu before I decide that.

Elegant to you merely reminds me that google is delighted to force me through the cattle chute reinforcing my existing desires. Google is absolute shit at serendipity.
posted by artlung at 7:53 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, I don't know a listings site that gives you the listings in some reasonable plaintext. However, I see that you're a web developer thinking of things like custom Greasemonkey scripts, and so I might be able to lead you in the right direction of making a listings page the way you want a listings page to be.

Almost every theater in the business sends their listings to the two big listings aggregation services, Webedia (formerly Westworld) and Gracenote (formerly TMS). Gracenote is of interest, because they offer free access to one of their local theatre listings REST APIs.

Start by registering for a free developer account. Then, take a look at their data delivery API doc, followed by the specifics of the movies playing in local theatres API. I'll bet you'll then be just a couple of requests and some JSON parsing away from what you're looking for.

(If you whip up something good, be sure to share it with us!)
posted by eschatfische at 8:21 PM on December 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

If you don't, or until you have the time to mess directly with the css etc, one thing you could do as a stopgap measure is choose a site that gives you the information you want and then use something like adblock element helper/hider (one is available on Firefox and I think the other is available on chrome, and there might be similar non-adblock related extensions). Those let you quickly pick elements out of a page that you don't want to see, which can often go a long way.
posted by trig at 11:09 PM on December 27, 2016

Yeah, I'm also in mourning. The Google search results method is an utterly awful replacement. I have been using Rotten Tomatoes showtimes for the past few months and it's actually pretty good-- the page loads quickly, listings are reasonably compact, and the filters on the left are actually very handy especially if you live in a place with tons of movies and theaters.
posted by acidic at 11:31 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not in mourning as I don't go to films as often but did notice the change and that banner of "best" films really annoyed. Pulling a custom list together either from a public api or scraping would be more work than just poking at various web sites and would certainly break frequently. Google may not be evil but is sure as hell ain't our friend. :-(
posted by sammyo at 5:33 AM on December 28, 2016

As bluecore pointed out, the IMDB page is pretty plain and under the header, the only graphics I see are movie poster thumbnails. I am running ABP and it says it is blocking 9 items on that page.
posted by soelo at 7:26 AM on December 28, 2016

I took a look around and I think it's a little different than it used to be. It'll still list theaters in your area if you give it your ZIP code, and times at each theater when you click thru to each one, but I thought there used to be something a little bit more like newspaper-style listings of old, maybe under Favorites. Can't find it. It might have been a premium subscription feature.
posted by jgreco at 8:34 AM on December 28, 2016

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
I didn't find a particularly good solution to this.

But I did get this interesting email to me from a fellow named Rob:
I agree 100%. I was totally bummed out when Google Movie show times when away. I looked for alternatives (,,,, Yahoo movies) and they all suck.

After reading your post today, I decided to give it another try...and...I found a way to (mostly) get back what we lost from Google!

Here's what I did.

1. Go to Google (on laptop/desktop).
2. Search for a theater near you. For example, "amc brentwood 14".
3. An applet will appear with showtimes for that theater.
4. Click the grey arrow at the bottom of the applet to reveal all showtimes.
5. Save link to your favorites.
6. Copy link and text to yourself via Google Voice. (Example:
7. Open message on your phone and click the link.
8. Your phone browser will open a page with picture of the theater, a map, and some showtimes. Scroll down until you see a blue arrow pointing to the right and "More dates and showtimes" and choose it.
9. You will then see a BEAUTIFUL plain-text listing of all the movies playing at that theater!
10. Bookmark page to your favories.
11. Close browser on your phone.
12. Open browser on your phone and go to favorites and choose the new bookmark.
13. You SHOULD see new same plain-text listing. You can also choose alternative dates in the upper left-hand corner. Mine shows a full week, which is very similar to what Google Movies did.

Enjoy! Please let me know if it works for you.

posted by taz (staff) at 6:19 AM on January 29, 2018

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