Why searching for movie showtimes just got easier

It’s painful

All you want to do is see a movie. But then you find yourself going back and forth comparing all the choices of movies, theaters, and showtimes.

Movie theaters seem to have been left behind in the drive to make everything easier on the internet. You can book a taxi with a single click, you can get a book delivered with a single click, but when it comes to searching for movies, it’s a mess.

This is why we decided to build MovieGlu and take away the pain of comparing movie showtimes.

Today there are countless websites which provide showtime information.  Fandango, Movietickets.com, Moviefone, Flixster, IMDB, and even Google are now all major players in the industry.

IMDB - March 2014So, what’s the big problem?

Here’s why searching for movie showtimes is too hard:

  • Users spend around 15 minutes per outing researching suitable movies, locations and showtimes
  • There’s no easy way to compare showtimes – just lots of lists and text
  • Users are forced to use multiple websites / apps to find what they want
  • Many websites and apps provide a poor user experience
  • Websites are covered with too many distracting and annoying adverts.

To put it simply, users need a faster, simpler and more intuitive way to make their decisions.

The solution

Which brings me to MovieGlu.  Our team has been busy thinking about all of these problems, and how to solve them. This can all be summed up in one simple goal:

“Making movie showtimes easier to search”

MovieGlu is the only movie search engine that allows you to compare start and end times of movies using a TV guide style format.

MovieGlu showtimesEven if you’re not planning to go to the movies any time soon, try it out for yourself and see how easy it is.

Alternatively, subscribe to our newsletter and get all our updates including new releases, movies you may have missed, re-releases of classics, and the chance to enter our competitions to win tickets.

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Our Beta programme launched today

After many months of planning, design and development, we have launched the MovieGlu Beta programme today.  For those of you who don’t know, a Beta programme is simply a period where a website or other software gets tested by a small group of people who provide feedback, find bugs and make suggestions.

Beta launch screenshotWe’ve already got some great feedback in the first couple of hours since making it availble.  We already know that there’s a lot more work to do before MovieGlu is ready for consumption by the general public – but this is the first big step along that journey.

Right now, MovieGlu only works with desktop browsers and tablets.  We’re busy working away on a version for mobile phones too, and will announce it as soon as it’s ready.

If you would like to take try out MovieGlu for yourself, and take part in the Beta testing, just go to our website and sign-up there.  We’ll then send you a username and password.  Once the Beta testing period is over, anyone will be able to to use MovieGlu without signing in.

 

Why searching for movie showtimes is too hard

Today I’m going to reveal what MovieGlu is all about.

I hinted in my earlier blog posts that searching for movie showtimes should be easier, and here at MovieGlu, we think that we have found a forumla to achieve this.

A short history lesson

Let’s begin though with a look back at where this all started. The first modern movie theaters began life in the early 1900s1, and grew rapidly over the following decades. Firstly they showed very short films of just a few minutes, getting longer as time passed2. However typical movie releases are usually around 90-100 minutes long.

But wait, why is length even relevant?  You know when a movie starts, and you know its duration. Yes, it’s very easy to work out when it finishes, but it does need a little bit of mental arithmetic. This becomes more important still when you’re planning an evening out, and want to make sure you get the last bus or train home in the evening.

Every major movie theater provides the start time of course, and it wasn’t long before timetables of movie showtimes started to become popular.  Individual movie theaters published their own adverts on flyers, and in newspapers and magazines. Here’s an example from 1983, from a chain called General Cinema Theatres.

ImageSome publications were even kind enough to collate all of the movies showing in their town or city into a single page.  Here’s an example from New York City in 1980:

ImageThe same approach was used in publications all over the world as movies became more popular, and more movie theaters were built.

The internet age

Then came the internet.  From the 1990s, information about movie showtimes started to appear online.  Today there are a countless websites which provide showtime information.  Fandango, Movietickets.com, Moviefone, Flixster, IMDB, and even Google are now all major players in the industry.  Image

So, what’s the big problem?

Here’s why searching for movie showtimes is too hard:

  • Internet users spend around 15 minutes per outing researching suitable movies, locations and showtimes
  • The majority of people are forced to use multiple websites / apps to find what they want
  • Existing providers of movie showtimes remain list-based
  • Many websites and apps provide a poor user experience – it needs to be easier
  • Websites are covered with too many adverts, which are not only distracting, but are generating decreasing financial returns.

To put it simply:

  • Users need a faster, simpler and more intuitive way to make their decisions.

The solution

Which brings me to MovieGlu.  Our team has been busy thinking about all of these problems, and how to solve them. This can all be summed up in one simple goal:

“Making movie showtimes easier to search”

So, here’s our plan.

1. Searching showtimes must be simple and fast

  • Users generally have one of two things in mind:
  • a) They already know what movie they want to see, and want to find the most most convenient location and time
  • b) They don’t know what they want to see, so they want to find out what’s on in their local area
  • Therefore ‘ease of use’ is our number one concern. Fast isn’t just about how quickly our servers return your search results, it’s also about how intuitive our service is, and how long it takes you to achieve your goal.

2. Everything in one place

  • There are plenty of websites and apps that provide this information, but often you have to visit multiple pages, going back-and-forth

3. Make it visual

  • This is the clever (but simple) part – see picture below
  • MovieGlu is throwing away the lists of times written as text, eg “12:00, 14:30, 16:00”, etc and borrowing an idea from TV guides – showing the start and end times as a timeline
  • (Now you know why I was talking about duration at the beginning of this post).

4. Your feedback

  • MovieGlu wants to be useful
  • We want to give you, the movie-going community, what you are looking for
  • We want you to send us your ideas, suggestions, likes and dislikes
  • We’ll review all feedback at least once per week and add the best ideas into our roadmap
  • Some will be quick to implement, others will take a bit longer – but if MovieGlu is going to be a success, it will be because of you.

5. No advertising

  • I won’t promise that this particular part of the plan will last forever (especially if we run short of money), but even if we do, I will promise that it won’t be to the detriment of your overall experience.

ImageWhat’s next

In the next few weeks, you will be able to decide yourself whether we’ve achieved our goal of making movie showtimes easier to search.

We’re currently putting the final touches on our website, and pretty soon you’ll be able to try it for yourself.

  • Right now we are looking for a small number of users to try out the service and give us some early feedback
  • We’ll take that feedback, and fix any issues before we make MovieGlu available to the general public
  • By signing up to take part in our “beta program”, you may be able to make a difference to what we hope will be the future of movie showtime search.

Sign-up now at MovieGlu.

 

Footnotes

1. History and background to Movie Theaters (Wikipedia)
2. List of longest films (Wikipedia)

Google vs Business

I was particularly pleased to see the news today that Google has promised to make “significant” changes to how rivals appear in search results.  As the founder of MovieGlu, a small business about to launch as a rival to Google in the movie listings field, this is indeed good news to me personally.

They have agreed to this change in order to avoid a mutli-billion Euro fine from the European Union’s Competition Commisioner.  It will be interesting to see whether such changes extend to Google’s service in the United States and beyond, or just limited to Europe.

Google has been showing movie listings for a few years.  Take for example this search: “movie times new york”.  The first result is Google’s own listings for movies showing in New York City.

Image

Note that the first results are their own movie theater listings, followed by Google’s own news feed results.  Only then are their competitors listed – in this case nyc.com and fandango.com – results that I believe match the user’s search intent.

When such a search result is displayed, it would be hard not to click on the first links displayed, and follow through.  Yes, I will admit that it is incredibly useful to end users, but Google’s approach will be hitting its competitors hard.  It seems that Google’s own results triumph over any effort businesses put into their own Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

And movie listings aren’t the only area where Google prioritises it’s own content – they also do the same thing with Music (via links to YouTube), Restaurants and Shopping.

So any changes they can implement to give equal relevance and visibility to smaller competitors is a very welcome change.

UPDATE 06-Feb-14:  On further investigation, I discovered this statement from the US Federal Trade Commission which you can find here.   In short, the Commission found that “the introduction of Universal Search, as well as additional changes made to Google’s search algorithms – even those that may have had the effect of harming individual competitors – could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users. It therefore has chosen to close the investigation.”.  In other words, they believe there is nothing wrong in Google promoting their own content over others in this area.

UPDATE 03-July-14:  The BBC broadcast an interview on this subject of Google “downgrading” its competitors products.

Visit MovieGlu – Searching for movie showtimes made easy.

It’s all about simplicity

When the original idea for MovieGlu first came about, we wanted to make a difference.  Creating yet another website listing showtimes wasn’t enough. Plenty of businesses have done that before.

Some of the most successful businesses in recent times have been the ones who have taken old ideas, and transformed them into something new.  Think Amazon, Google, Wikipedia.  We wanted to build something people will use because it solves a problem.

  • MovieGlu believes that searching for movies and cinema showtimes online should be quicker and less frustrating than existing websites and apps
  • MovieGlu challenges the status quo by bringing a fresh approach to an old problem
  • Old fashioned newspaper-style cinema listings should become a thing of the past

But what’s the big idea I hear you ask?  Well, we’re not quite ready to reveal that yet …. there’s still a little bit more work to do.

In the meantime, let me leave you with this thought…..

“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci