I’ve been using moviefone.com for years. I was using them before I ever saw an ad for them on a movie screen. They were an internet service of use to me before they ever had the marketing muscle to get a wacky ad on the screen before every movie I watch.
I watch a lot of movies. I’ve already seen four movies in theatres this weekend, and plan to see one or two more. I spend not less than $60 a month in movie theatres, every month, sometimes more than $100. It is an expensive habit.
And it requires having accurate information about when and where the movies I want to see are playing. Especially considering I watch at least a couple of ‘independent’ and foreign movies a month, which typically play on only one screen at one theatre, if they play at all – knowing which of the dozens of theatres in town to show up at to to see a movie like My Date With Drew or Broken Flowers or Layer Cake, each of which I had to drive to a different theatre to see at the only place it was playing. Moviefone has been very helpful over the years with getting me to the theatre I need at the time I need to see the movie I want to see.
But lately, I’ve noticed more and more problems with the information Moviefone has, not only on the website, but over the phone at well.
Moviefone knew there was a midnight showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Cine Capri, but didn’t know it had sold out half a day in advance, and didn’t know about the midnight show at Arizona Mills across town with virtually unlimited seating. When Fantastic Four opened, Moviefone did not list it among the movies playing at my local cineplex, so I went to a movie theatre twenty minutes away. The following day I was watching another movie that WAS listed at my local theatre, and found that Fantastic Four hadbeen playing locally, but that Moviefone didn’t know about it.
I’ve had at least five incidents in the last two months where I myself or someone I was with had looked up showtimes on moviefone.com, sometimes more than once before going to the theatre, and arrived to find we were fifteen or twenty minutes late, sometimes while thinking we were the same amount early. Needless to say, that causes some anxiety and often ruins the afternoon/evening’s plans entirely.
Oh, and then this weekend a few things: Four Brothers is not listed as playing at my local cineplex, but I know it’s the widest-opening movie this weekend, so I called them – they were well aware that moviefone was listing Broken Flowers as playing there at the times they were actually playing Four Brothers, and that the only theatre in town playing Broken Flowers is the Camelview, almost half an hour away, depending on traffic. When I went to see Four Brothers there tonight I stood in line behind two people who had come to see Broken Flowers and had to go home for the evening, since the Camelview showing was starting as they stood there trying to understand the mixup. Another film, Last Days, an ‘independent’ film by Gus Van Sant, I know is playing at the Centerpoint in Tempe, but moviefone doesn’t even acknowledge that there exists a movie called Last Days. I knew it was playing because Harkins emails me the showtimes of all the ‘independent’ and foreign films playing at Harkins theatres every week, and then to be sure, I called the box office at the Centerpoint (yes, I know the direct numbers for the Centerpoint and my local theatre by heart, so what of it?) to verify that it was playing, and at what times. My email was right, and moviefone didn’t have a clue.
Oh, and then today when I was out, my plan had been to watch four movies at three theatres. I had the showtimes and theatres written down, but somewhere after the first movie I lost the list and couldn’t recall how much time I had left to get across town. I tried calling moviefone as I drove in that direction, and … there were problems.
First, it said all the circuits were busy. Then I got through on the other moviefone number (did you know we have two in town?) and it seemed dead at first. After several calls and attempts to gather information about showtimes, it seemed to me that their servers were probably overloaded, crashing, or hacked altogether. There was a multi-second lag between prompts, even between the greeting and the ad and the ad and the menu, and between pressing a button and getting a response, and then there seemed to be no data available. It didn’t recognize ANY theatre express codes, it wouldn’t accept a zip code to search by area, it wouldn’t accept input of letters to search by movie title; nothing beyond basic navigation was working.
I stopped for gas and managed to find my list of movies and showtimes in time to discover that because I hadn’t remembered to be in a hurry to get to the theatre (I had taken surface streets and, obviously, stopped for gas) I had missed the movie. That wasn’t exactly moviefone’s fault, but I was on the phone before I even got to my car, and with even a reasonably-paced automated system to give me the information would have told me what I needed to know before I got out of the parking lot or, or to the first street that connects with a freeway, at the latest, and I might have made it on time.
Many web errors, information missing, incorrect movie names (I remember when House of Wax came out, they were listing the new House of Wax as playing at some theatres and the Vincent Price House of Wax in 3D as playing in others, though they all showed the same film.), incorrect show times, and now a total lack of service over the phone.
I think I’ll start cross-checking all my movie listings against google for a while, see how that works out. I recommend that you do the same, or risk disappointment and frustration.