How To: Make the Most of Your Trip to the Movie Theater with These Apps

Make the Most of Your Trip to the Movie Theater with These Apps

With the list of available mobile apps for moviegoers constantly expanding and improving, seeing a film at your local theater has never been better. With the right apps for your iPhone or Android phone, you can research movies, find out if showings are sold out, reserve seats, save money on tickets and concessions, preorder popcorn and soda, and even find dull bathroom-worthy scenes.

You may have some favorite apps in mind that you already use on your smartphone, or perhaps you've never used any apps to help make the moviegoing experience more efficient, convenient, and pain-free. Either way, you'll find the best of the best on this list, comprising apps that excel in one particular area, among others that combine multiple tasks into one convenient place.

Jump to a section: Movie News & Info | Movie Subscriptions | Buying Tickets | More Ways to Save | In-Theater Apps

Staying Up-to-Date on the Latest Movie Buzz

Unless you're a spontaneous person, you'll probably want to know what movies are playing before heading to the theater. Instead of sifting through a sea of search results on Google, why not try an app designed to deliver the movie info you want to know? That's where the following three services come in handy.

1. IMDb Movies & TV

The Internet Movie Database, or IMDb, is a must-have for any film fan. Essentially, it's the encyclopedia of movies. Anything you want to know about a particular title you'll find on IMDb. Want to know what's playing next weekend? Done. Want to know who directed Infinity War? IMDb will tell you that, alongside everyone who worked on the movie.

IMDb is a fantastic resource for movies from the past, but it's just as good for keeping up with what's new in Hollywood. The database publishes news about the industry daily, including new and upcoming movies, developments for future projects, and buzz about actors, directors, and other film crew, among other things.

  • Install IMDb Movies & TV: Android (free) | iOS (free)

The app features ratings and reviews of movies from both professional critics and IMDb members, trailers for upcoming titles, trivia for each movie including whether or not a film has an end scene, and links to buy tickets at your local theater.

When logged into your account, you can get movie suggestions based on your interests and ratings, create customizable movie lists that can be either private or public, and get notifications for ticket sales and release dates for movies on your watch list. It's the self-proclaimed movie buff's dream. The only thing missing is message boards, aka user discussions, which was removed in early-2017 despite pushback from the community.

Plus, Amazon has owned IMDb since the late-'90s, so if you're feeling too sick or lazy to make it to a movie, it makes it easy to see if Amazon has an older movie you've wanted to see available for rent, purchase, or free streaming via your Prime membership.

2. Rotten Tomatoes (Flixster)

Rotten Tomatoes is a great tool for understanding how critics and fans alike react to the thousands of movies that release each year. Like IMDb, it's a great source for all the latest in movie news, trailers, and cast and crew information. However, the main attraction for Rotten Tomatoes is not in its movie details, but rather in reviews.

The site's big draw is its "Tomatometer," which takes potentially hundreds of reviews from critics and boils them down to an overall percentage of positive reviews. If at least 60% of a particular movie's reviews are positive, it's considered "Fresh." If not, it's branded as "Rotten." The Tomatometer is so important in movie culture today, a film that receives Rotten Tomatoes' coveted "Certified Fresh" rating are usually advertised as such by its studio.

While there is no actual "Rotten Tomatoes" app for smartphones, it's incorporated into the app for Flixster. Flixster used to be a social movie site but has since been relegated to a being a place to see movie trailers and buy tickets from its parent company, Fandango. However, the best part about it is that it includes the Tomatometer and links to reviews from critics.

  • Install Flixster with Rotten Tomatoes: Android (free) | iOS (free)

While the app proudly features the Tomatometer, you won't find another Rotten Tomatoes staple, the "Consensus." For movies that receive enough reviews, Rotten Tomatoes writes a brief consensus, based on any trends present in the multitude of critiques. This information can be a quick way to gauge your interest for a movie, so its a shame Rotten Tomatoes doesn't include it in its app.

The app does include the "Audience Score" though, which can be helpful if you value a general audience's opinion over that by critics. A full popcorn bucket icon is given when 60 percent of the users rated a film 3.5 out of 5 or higher. If the 60 percent of users rate it below the 3.5 threshold, a tipped-over green bucket of popcorn is displayed instead.

3. Variety

If you're just looking to stay in-the-know about all the latest from Hollywood, check out Variety, a weekly entertainment trade magazine with a news website and mobile app. Variety is one of the only movie news publications to have its own app, where you can find the current buzz about upcoming projects headed to the theater.

Keep up to date with the creation of a movie from beginning to end. See who's rumored to join a film's team, who are officially cast in roles, who's slated to be the director, when principal photography is finished, and, of course, when the movie is expected to release.

Aside from the aforementioned details, Variety is yet another place to find professional reviews for the movies you're interested in seeing. Plus, there's even in-depth analysis and insights from those in the business.

Movie Subscriptions

It's 2018 — who pays for individual movies anymore? Well, plenty of us do, but we no longer have to. It's the age of subscriptions, and movie theaters are no exception.

There are two categories of moviegoing plans; one by a theater itself only for movies at its locations, and one by a third-party company which is acceptable at most movie theater locations. While there aren't very many plans right now, expect to see more in the future as the competition between theaters and third parties heats up.

1. MoviePass

We won't get into how MoviePass was so great before, but only get into the details of what MoviePass is like right now. Overall, it's an unpredictable service for most users, while others continue to have success making the most of it.

MoviePass has only one plan for $9.95 a month (better plans are coming in 2019). With it, you can see three 2D movies each month, but only from a preselected list of allowed movies each day. Available showtimes for those films can usually only be purchased at theaters in the mornings since it frequently removes remaining showtimes in the afternoon and evening when it runs out of money for the day. Bonus movies not on the preselected list do appear occasionally, but they tend to be indie films in very few theaters.

Images by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

For the lucky few who live near MoviePass-partnered theaters, all movies available at the theater are allowed to be watched, and there are no restrictions on showtimes. These are called e-ticketing theaters, and reservations are made from the MoviePass app, sometimes with a processing fee and sometimes without.

If you can get to a theater in the morning or live close to an e-ticketing theater, MoviePass could be a steal for you. For those of you with no partnered MoviePass locations in the area, and if you regularly can't make it to theaters in the morning to buy tickets for that day, MoviePass might not be worth the frustration.

For a full review of MoviePass and all its features and fine print, and more info about the items in the chart above, check out our overview of the service.

2. Sinemia

Overall, what you pay for is what you get with Sinemia, which is leaps better than you can say for MoviePass. There are no randomly pulled showtimes, and that's the best thing about this option.

As of now, Sinemia is running a holiday sale, where plans range from $4.99–$29.99. Typically, these plans run from $12.99 all the way up to $89.99. However, before the holiday sale, there was a fall sale offering similar discounts, so expect Sinemia to stray from its initial asking price frequently. Also, if you only want to watch films on Monday through Thursday, you get 20 percent off the monthly charge.

Depending on the plan you choose, you can see up to 1, 2, 3, or 30 movies a month. And best of all, you choose when you want to see a movie. There are no restrictions on when or where.

Images by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

Sinema does not cover convenience fees but does charge processing fees for all "Advanced Ticket" orders, i.e., when you reserve and pay for tickets online. There's also an initiation fee if choosing the monthly plan, which you can avoid by paying annually. Sinemia does not offer concession discounts, nor a points system, but it does offer food coupons from time to time.

With Sinemia, you might not get discounts on additional tickets, but you do get family plans galore. Every normal plan has a corresponding family plan, where you can choose from 2–6 members. You and any family members can enjoy using Sinemia at every major theater in the country, including premium theaters, IMAX, 3D, and all new releases, depending on the plan.

It might have too many options, but Sinemia is what MoviePass was supposed to be only sustainable. Take a look at their different price points, and see if any work for your movie-going needs.

For a full review of Sinemia and all its features and fine print, and more info about the items in the chart above, check out our overview of the service.

3. AMC Stubs A-List

The best theater-owned filmgoing subscription is AMC Stubs A-List, which was a direct response to MoviePass' "lead to gold" subscription model. Today, it's actually one of the best plans you can get as long as you live near an AMC Theatres location.

The plan costs $19.95 plus tax for everyone (15 states will see a higher price in January), and you get three movies each week for a total of 12 movies a month. While 2D movies are obviously accessible, so are most premium formats except for IMAX VR and special events.

Images by David Chien/Gadget Hacks

Tickets can be reserved in advance, for a total of three reservations at any time, and you can book same-day and future screenings either in the app, on its website, or at your local AMC theater. There are also a few small concessions perks as well as a rewards program to earn cash back to be used on concessions, with points earned from concessions, the monthly plan charge, and additional tickets.

For a full review of AMC Stubs A-List and all its features and fine print, and more info about the items in the chart above, check out our overview of the service.

4. Cinemark Movie Club

While not as large a theater chain as AMC, Cinemark threw its hat into the subscription ring first. And while there aren't as many theaters, chances are if there's no AMC around you, there will be a Cinemark. The theater's service is a bit modest with only one 2D movie each month for an $8.99 monthly charge. That said, these tickets carry over so that you will rack up 12 free movies a year on Cinemark's service no matter what.

You choose when to see your movie with Cinemark. There's free online ordering, no initiation fee, and concession discounts when you get to the theater. You also earn points from movies you watch, which, like AMC, you can cash in for rewards.

Images by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

Bring your friends! While there are no family plans, Cinemark offers subscribers discounts tickets for $8.99, the price of the monthly subscriptions. Cinemark has 337 locations in the US, so you could very well live within a reasonable distance of one.

This service isn't perfect since only 2D movies are compatible with your monthly free ticket. Just remember Cinemark charges extra for premium theaters, as well as for IMAX and 3D screenings. Frugle film-fans will want to double check their desired showtime is a regular 2D movie, without the frills.

For a full review of Cinemark Movie Club and all its features and fine print, and more info about the items in the chart above, check out our overview of the service.

Buying Tickets

Let's say you're not into subscriptions. Maybe you don't want to commit to multiple movies each month. Instead, you just want to make the trip to the theater when a film you want to see is out. What's the best way to secure those tickets, especially if the movie in question is a popular choice? That's where movie ticket-buying apps come in.

There are two categories of ticket-buying services; one by a theater itself only for movies at its locations, and one by a third-party company that sells tickets for most theaters in the US. There have been many over the years, but we're only interested in the best of the best here.

1. Fandango

Fandango is just about as old as the idea of buying movie tickets online. While the service started exclusively on desktop computers, Fandango's app — along with a free Fandango VIP membership — offers users easy entry to the latest movies.

Avid movie-goers know the most popular flicks tend to fill up fast. That's why you want to know ASAP when tickets go on sale, to avoid missing out on opening weekend. Fandango sends personalized notifications to your phone, so you'll never miss a release, trailer, or anything related to your anticipated movies.

The service also accepts refunds right up to showtime. If something happens one minute before the movie is scheduled to start, no problem. You can also use the app with compatible theater memberships, allowing you to rack up loyalty points for your local theater while still using Fandango. Plus, you can reserve seats in theaters where that's necessary.

Fandango will occasionally offer free movies to its users, but won't let you order tickets for free. No matter where in the US you live, tickets come with a $1.70 convenience fee. You won't offset that cost with a discount either since unlike many movie theaters, Fandango doesn't offer discount days for tickets. Make sure to pay attention to the theaters in your area to take advantage of such a deal.

It does have its own rewards program called VIP+, where you earn 125 points for every ticket purchased. Once you reach 500, you get a $5 reward that can be used for streaming movies and TV shows or more movie tickets. Rewards expire after 21 days of issuance.

As for security, the apps for both Android and iOS support face and fingerprint biometric authentication for accessing settings and purchasing tickets.

Some negatives? Fandango shows ads in its app and won't offer you a birthday reward. However, it's a great solution for moviegoers for all the reasons listed above. Plus, Fandango occasionally run sweepstakes, so users can have the chance to win fun prizes.

2. Atom Tickets

Atom Tickets advertises itself as a "VIP experience" for buying movie tickets. While the service resembles Fandango in many ways, there are luxurious features for Atom to boast about.

Atom will send you notifications to remind you when tickets are live for a particular movie, when a new trailer releases, and just general movie news. While their refund policy isn't as generous as Fandango's, Atom will let you cancel your tickets up to 30 minutes before showtime.

Like Fandango, Atom lets you add your memberships to other theaters, so you won't need to miss out on any points, perks, and rewards you'd otherwise receive buying tickets through those theaters. You'll also see free movies coming your way — if you sign up for a free Atom Rewards account, you'll receive one free ticket for every four you buy.

There is no free online ordering, but your convenience fee depends on your location. In many areas, the fee is $1.35, while in select regions like NYC it goes up to $1.50. You won't find discount ticket days through Atom, nor will you see a birthday reward.

However, those issues fall away fast, as Atom allows you to preorder concessions. No need to budget time for the snack line — just order ahead of time. If you can't decide between Fandango or Atom, just ask yourself how often you buy snacks at the theater.

You won't find any ads in Atom's app, but you also won't be able to use face or fingerprint authentication to secure it either. That being said, Atom follows Fandango's lead and hosts occasional sweepstakes.

3. AMC Stubs Insider

Not to be confused with AMC Stubs A-List, AMC Stubs Insider is AMC's free membership. While you aren't allotted any free movies for the week or month, signing up for AMC Stubs will give you some perks you wouldn't otherwise get just by buying tickets alone.

With AMC's app, you'll get personalized notifications about upcoming movies that interest you. Like Fandango, you'll be eligible for full refunds up to showtime, and while you can only use the membership with AMC theaters, both Fandango and Atom support AMC integration.

Each ticket you buy through AMC, as well as concessions, will earn you points that you can cash in for rewards (20 points per $1 spent). Once you get to 5,000 points, you get a $5 reward. If you're on your own, you won't find free online ordering, but buy tickets in groups of four or more and AMC will waive the $1.65–$1.75 convenience fee.

If you want to save some money, buy your tickets on Tuesday. AMC runs discounts for many of its theaters every Tuesday, with 2D tickets costing just $5. Your local theater might run the discount differently, so make sure to check in with them to know what you can get.

Don't forget to tell AMC your birthday, as the theater offers users birthday rewards. You'll also find concession preorder with participating theaters and, thankfully, the app contains no ads. You can block others from buying tickets on your app with Touch ID/Face ID authentication (the Android app doesn't support biometrics yet), and you can enter for your chance to win prizes with AMC rolling sweepstakes.

AMC does offer a paid version of this membership for $15 a year. For that small donation, AMC throws free popcorn and drink size upgrades, free online ordering, priority lanes at the theater, and more points per purchase (100 versus 20).

4. Regal Crown Club

If your area is served better by Regal than AMC, check our their free Regal Crown Club membership. You won't see personalized notifications for new movies, but you can request a refund for tickets you need to cancel. You'll just need to cancel at least 60 minutes before showtime, a bit more strict than any of the other options in this list.

Just like AMC, you can only use the Regal app to purchase Regal tickets, but you'll find some fun perks in that. Regal will throw the occasional free movie your way, and you rack up points for buying tickets using your Regal account. You'll have to pay the $1.35–$1.50 convenience fee for buying tickets online, however, but that cost can be offset by Regal discount days. These discounts vary by theater, so check your local theater for more info.

Regal offers its users a birthday reward, but no preorder on concessions. You won't run into ads in the regal app, but you also can't protect your account with face or fingerprint authentication. Perhaps entering one of Regal's sweepstakes will take your mind off that omission.

5. Cinemark Connections

If Cinemark — or one of the theaters in its umbrella — is your theater of choice, consider signing up for a Cinemark Connections account. You won't get personalized notifications in the app, but you can request a refund for tickets up until showtime. And you can only watch films at a Cinemark theater, as you can't buy tickets for other theaters through the Cinemark app.

Just like AMC and Regal, Cinemark customers earn points on the tickets they buy as well as concessions. You get 25 points for every transaction, for a maximum of 25 each 24 hours. They also have access to free movies occasionally, but won't see the same treatment when ordering online — each ticket comes with a $1.50 convenience fee. Select theaters hold discount days, however, so you could negate the convenience fee on your theater's given day.

There are no birthday rewards with Cinemark, nor concession preorders, but there are no ads on the Cinemark app. You can also lock the app away from the world with face or fingerprint authentication, as well as enter Cinemark's recurring sweepstakes.

If Cinemark just happens to be your local theater, there's no reason to throw away potential perks.

Ways to Save Money on Movie Tickets

As we've seen above, discounts on movie tickets vary wildly not just per theater chain, but individual theater as well. If you don't want to wait until Tuesday for a cheap ticket from AMC, or your local theater doesn't even offer discounted tickets period, check out these tips:

  • T-Mobile Tuesdays: T-Mobile customers receive free stuff every Tuesday. Sometimes it happens to be movie tickets, so keep your eyes out.
  • Groupon: Install from the App Store or Google Play to find coupons to your local theater.
  • Costco and Sam's Club: Check out these wholesale clubs for packs of discounted movie tickets. Just make sure the tickets you buy are compatible with your local theater.
  • Honey: Browser extension that finds discounts across the web while checking out.
  • Regal!: Regal sells its own discounted tickets, $9 each. You can also buy these tickets in bundles.
  • Other: Some colleges and employers offer perks like discounted movie tickets. Check with your company or school to see.

At the Theater & During the Movie

Once you've found your discount, purchased a ticket, and snagged your snacks, slide into your seat and enhance your theater experience from start to finish with the following apps.

1. Entertain Yourself in Augmented Reality

Before the movie starts, participate in Noovie, the pre-movie content that plays before the trailers start. Noovie has a Wreck-It Ralph augmented reality app that you can play right from your seat. Recreate the Pancake Milkshake Café scene from the movie's trailer right on your iPhone or Android device. There are also AR games you can play too. It'll give you a reason to get to the theater a bit early.

  • Install Noovie ARcade: Android (free) | iOS (free)
Image via NCM

2. Don't Let a Phone Call Ruin the Movie

You also don't want to be bothered by texts, phone calls, emails, etc. while watching your movie, and neither does the rest of the theater. To prevent any distractions, use the Do Not Disturb feature on your phone. If using an iPhone running iOS 12, you have a few options for how to set up DND, as seen below. Android users may have similar features based on the device model and software.

3. Leave for the Bathroom Without Missing a Thing

Go ahead, order the large Cherry Coke. You won't need to worry about leaving the theater during an important scene to use the bathroom, thanks to RunPee. The app finds the best three spots during a movie to leave for the toilet and subtly buzzes you during each to give you a chance to go. (This is where DND might not be handy.)

If you do decide to leave, you can read a summary of what you're missing. When you get back, you're up to speed, feeling comfortable to finish the movie. RunPee adds new movies every week, and even tips you off if there are end credit scenes (don't view the third image below to avoid the most minor of "The Grinch" spoilers).

While there are optional in-app purchases, you can get by for free with ads. There's even IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes integration so you can read up on the movies you're going to miss 2–3 minutes of.

If you have trouble getting through an entire movie without needing the restroom, RunPee might just be the best app you'll ever use.

This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' annual Movies & TV on Mobile special coverage. Read all of the Movies & TV on Mobile coverage.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover image and screenshots by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks, unless otherwise noted

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