Hunger games competition

This competition has now closed, and the winner has been informed. Thank you to everyone who entered.  If you would like to be informed of future competitions, you can sign-up to the MovieGlu newsletter.



Stef Dawson Annie CrestaMovieGlu is giving away a poster signed by Stef Dawson, who plays Annie Cresta in the latest movie.

Annie Cresta is the love-interest of Finnick Odair in the movie, and has signed this poster which could be yours.   Signed Hunger Games Poster - Annie Cresta - Stef Dawson

To win this poster, all you need to do is sign up to the MovieGlu newsletter by clicking the button below.

Click to enter competition

The winner will be drawn randomly on 28th February 2015, and the winner notified by email. You must accept the confirmation email you receive to ensure entry into the competition. If you do not receive the confirmation email, please check your Spam or Junk mail folder in case it got lost.

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.