There was a time, not all that long ago, when using your cellphone in a movie theater would get a few dirty looks from those sitting around you and maybe a bit of a talking to from an usher. But those days are on their way out if they're not yet gone already.
Now, cellphones (and smartphones in particular) are being embraced by not only moviegoers but cinema chains, too, as the film industry is looking to mobile apps as a new way to pull people into theater seats.
As my Times colleague Richard Verrier documents in his fantastic weekend story, which wears the headline of "A cinematic leap for the smartphone," cinemas have seen ticket sales slide over the last decade as more people rent, stream and watch movies at home rather than pay for the theater experience.
Apps are now seen as a backlit-touchscreen beacon of hope to turn this downward trend around and there is already some data to validate the strategy of reaching out by tapping into our smartphones.
According to online ticket seller Fandango, 26% of ticket sales for "The Vow" have taken place on mobile phones, while 22% of "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1" were purchased on smartphones and tablets, and 21% of The Muppets tickets were sold on mobile gadgets.
But while the end goal of all this is to get more people into theaters and buying popcorn, soda and candy, not every app is just about purchasing a ticket.
Here's a rundown of some of the apps I recommend you check out if you own an Apple iPhone, BlackBerry or a phone running Google's Android operating system or Microsoft's Windows Phone. If you have a few favorites, sound off in the comments below.
Fandango: If you like going to the movies and you have a smartphone, you basically need to download Fandango. In my opinion, it's the one of the most helpful apps out there for movie fans as it lets you see what's playing and when at almost all the theaters in your area -- either by way of figuring out your location automatically or by you entering in a zip code or city name.
Fandango not only shows you what's playing and where; the app also has still photos from movies to browse, as well as trailers that can be streamed, a bit of cast info and a synopsis of each film listed, and users can leave reviews as well to help you get an idea of what you're getting into when you decide on a flick.
You can also purchase tickets within the app via credit card or PayPal, and some chains issue digital tickets within the app, which saves the world from having to print out a few paper tickets.
RunPee: Yeah, the name is strange, but the app is a great idea. RunPee is an app that offers suggestions as to the best time to leave a movie to go use the restroom. OK, most of us can make it through a film without having to take a bathroom break, but if you gotta go, you gotta go and RunPee may help you figure out what's worth missing.
Movie Night Out: This app delivers on the promise of its name. Movie Night Out helps you plan a movie night by not only listing show times and nearby theaters, but also nearby coffee shops, desert spots, music venues, bars and clubs and even places to shop for shoes, books, music, electronics, clothes, flowers and other items.
The app also will also make recommendations in case you're stumped. Not sure what movie to see? Movie Night Out offers suggestions for action nights, date nights, family nights, girls' night, guys' night, a funny night and a few other options. Or you can ask the app to surprise you and put together a random night of stuff to do.
It's fun and easy to use and worth a download if you like breaking out of your routine and exploring the city you live in.
MoviePal: I hate showing up to a movie even a few minutes late because I hate missing trailers.
If I miss a trailer, I feel like I've missed the chance to see a preview of what's coming to the cinema, whether it be a massively hyped action movie, a heart-tugging drama, a dark suspense thriller, an innovative foreign film or a sleeper-hit indie flick.
If you feel the same way and you own an iPhone, then MoviePal is an app you need in your life. MoviePal is to trailers as Shazam is to music.
Using audio recognition software and the mic built into your iPhone, MoviePal listens to the trailer you're watching it and then (if it recognizes the sounds) tags the film in a list stored within the app.
Once you've tagged a movie trailer, you can stream the trailer from within the app for watching later and you can even share the trailer you just watched with friends on Facbeook and Twitter.
The app will even remind you when the tagged film hits theaters.
MoviePal is only available on iOS.
Flixster: If your a fan of the online phenomenon that is Rotten Tomatoes, a website where anyone can share their take on a movie and contribute to a Tomatometer rating, then you'll dig Flixster.
Much like the Rotten Tomatoes website, Flixster lists show times and theaters nearby, as well as offering reviews by critics and moviegoers for both what's in theaters now and what's on Blu-Ray and DVD.
You can also watch trailers within the app, connect Flixster to Facebook to find out what your friends are saying about movies and add a listed film to your Netflix queue.
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