Essay: Movie Listings

Back in the day—and this was long, long ago, say two or three years—I could plan my trip to the movie theater in 30 seconds or less.  I simply opened to the “movie listings” page in the relevant section of my newspaper, scanned the listings from all the theaters, checked the times and decided if I did or did not want to see a movie at that time.  I did this regularly, from 1989—the time I began attending movies without my parents—until the end of the first decade of our new century.
At that point, Regal Cinemas, the main provider of first-run movies in Portland, Oregon, pulled its daily listings from the newspaper.

I understood why.  Regal has a full, robust (and also rather difficult-to-navigate)
website.  The number of subscribers to the newspaper has been declining for years.  Smartphones had begun to appear and it was easier for consumers to be able to access movie information through a phone.  I also thought at the time that Regal was a good five to ten years ahead of themselves.  There are still a lot of
people who are not interested in navigating the internet to find their movie
selections.  Why cut out a potential segment of the movie-going public?
I don’t particularly like Regal as a company, and work hard to avoid seeing movies at their theaters, so I only missed the presence of their movie listings now and again.  But that was the tipping point.  From that point on, my checking of movie listings would straddle two formats: the newspaper, for a quick easy look, and then, if necessary, a follow up on the theater website.  One website became multiple websites as more and more theaters stopped using the newspaper to advertise their flicks.
Now, instead of spending 30 seconds scanning the listings, I click on seven different movie theater websites.  Within some of those websites, I also have to
click on multiple pages as some web designer has deemed it important that each
theater take up its own page, or that every movie in the theater system—even
ones in other cities—is listed in a long list.
Regal’s website is particularly bad.  Instead of giving me a grid of all the Portland
movies which was what I had in the paper, I get to scroll through each theater.  This sounds easy enough, but because Regal specializes in the multiplex, all the movies at a particulartheater don’t fit on one web screen and regular scrolling jumps from theater to theater.  I must then employ a combination technique of pulling the screen back and forth with the mouse to read each movie listed in the theater and then scrolling to the next one.  It’s actually an improvement from earlier in the year, when it was difficult to navigate to the individual movie theater listings.  But it’s still miles away from having all the information on one page.
The thing about all this is not that it is a massive pain that frustrates me and keeps people away from the movies.  That’s annoying, for sure.  And really, the amount of “trouble” it causes me is minimal and falls squarely into the “first world problem” category.  What I feel each Friday, as I take five to ten minutes to do something that used to take 30 seconds, is a sense of frustration and loss.  Five years ago, I had no idea that the movie listings would disappear from the  newspaper.  I didn’t know to appreciate the convenience of that feature.  To paraphrase Cinderella, that metal band from the 80s, I didn’t know what I had until it was gone.  The movie listings went away because technology improved in a way that made the movie theater owners abandon something they had done for decades.
What other technological changes are in store for us in the coming years?  And will they all come in the guise of making our lives “easier” while actually making things more difficult?  I’m guessing the answer is yes.

4 thoughts on “Essay: Movie Listings”

  1. Want to make it 30 seconds again? Try It lists the movies individually or by theater (listing them based upon proximity to your zip code). We also use flixter and imdb. But the google movie finder is my favorite.

    And yes, I know this essay is about more than movie listings. And yes, Google is a far greater monolith that is annoying both us us right now (come on Google – don't take iGoogle and Reader away – you stink). We are at the mercy of these things and it annoys me greatly. I know that, as you say, it will just get worse. I will fall in love with something techie (a lovely platform like iGoogle that allows me to see many applications at once) and then it will be yanked from me with reckless abandon and then I will have to spend time and angst finding a new replacement that may or may not be better than the original. Hear that Google? – I want to keep my iGoogle!

  2. Interesting. I didn't know that the google movie thing existed. I've been wary of believing that the movie listings that pop up on google while I'm searching individual movies are correct, but this does give an overview somewhat like the newspaper used to do. I have two problems with it. Not all the movies are on one page–I got three pages of results to click through. And the results are in an odd order. One that I will now preserve for posterity.

    (first page)
    Regal Pioneer Place 6
    Living Room Theater
    Regal Fox 10
    Mission Theater & Pub
    Fifth Ave. Cinemas
    OMSI Omnimax Theater
    Cinema 21
    Regal Lloyd Mall 8
    Regal Lloyd Cinemas 10
    Cine Magic Theaters
    (next page)
    Laurelhurst Theatre
    Clinton St. Theater
    Avalon Theater
    Baghdad Theater
    Moreland Theater
    Hollywood Theater
    Kennedy School
    Milwaukie Cinemas
    Roseway Theater
    Academy Theater
    (next page)
    St. John's Theater & Pub
    Century Eastport 16
    Valley Theater
    Regal City Center 12
    St John's Theater 1 & 2
    Century Clackamas Town Center
    Kiggins Theater
    Regal Tigard 11
    Joy Cinema & Pub
    Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing

    I'm interested in how the order of the list is populated. For instance, the St. Johns Cinemas which is quite near me shows up on the third page. Is that because it gets fewer hits? Didn't buy enough ad space on Google? Why?

  3. Oh! There's a link on the side where I can switch to sorted by movies. It gives me more pages, but that's okay.

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