There are two sites for online buying: Fandango, the relative upstart (founded in 2000), and MovieTickets (which is actually where you buy from when you go through the Moviefone site). Both let you buy tickets as much as 45 days in advance, a clear advantage for opening-weekend fanatics (it helps theater owners, too; when they see screenings selling out, they’ll add more theaters and more showings).
There are drawbacks, of course. First is the $1 to $1.50 “service charge,” which may be climbing since both sites say they are considering a sliding scale that would charge higher fees on opening weekends. Competition breeds disorganization; both sites list all movie times, but if one doesn’t service your theater, you’re forced to rummage through the other. The 2005 merger of Loews and AMC further confused matters, because some theaters became Loews/AMC hybrids but others stayed AMC theaters. For reference: Fandango has a contract with Loews/AMC and Regal theaters, MovieTickets with Clearview and the remaining AMCs. To buy Fandango tickets from your phone or PDA, go to mobile.fandango.com or text your Zip Code to FNDGO; for MovieTickets, it’s wap.movietickets.com. To purchase from a human being, it’s no secret that the Regal Battery Park theater is a good bet for not selling out.
As for what time the movies really start: Advertisements are supposed to stop by a posted start time, followed by the trailers. Individual theater companies have some say in the trailers they show, and often favor one studio over another based on how big they think the upcoming movies will be or deals they’ve made about pushing one title over another. It may feel like they go on forever, but the industry standard is no more than six, for a total of thirteen to fifteen minutes before the feature presentation. That means if the advertised start time is 6:30 p.m., you have until 6:45 before the opening credits. Complain away, but trailers are here forever. “They’ll never get rid of them,” says AMC projectionist Stu Boritz. “They think they do a lot for the films. I think they’re a pain in the neck, and the movie is never is good as the trailer.”