vs. Fandango
Throughout history, titans have battled each other for supremacy. Greece versus Troy. The Union versus the Confederacy. VHS versus Beta. France versus hygiene. Johnson versus Bird. And now, comes versus Fandango. Okay, not really. But, as theaters look for additional ways to generate revenue, the internet seems a logical choice for expansion. Wouldn't it be great if you could buy tickets at home? You can avoid standing in those annoying lines at the box office, and just walk right in.

The very first thing you'll notice is that neither of these sites are a one-stop shop. They are competitors backed by different chains, much the same way that rival studios are lining up behind Toshiba's HD-DVD (including Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros) and Sony's Blu-Ray (Disney, MGM, and Columbia Tri-Star). The difference here is that and Fandango can probably co-exist. You just have to know where to go to buy tickets for a specific chain. While on-line sales for tickets are increasing, they are still pretty minimal compared to the standard walk up box office, so there is room for plenty of growth on both sides before any sort of confrontation. sells tickets for AMC, Krikorian, Pacific, Mann, and Landmark.

Fandango sells tickets for Regal (Edwards, UA), Century, Captain Blood's, and Laemmele. Obviously, for anybody in Orange County, Fandango clearly has more theaters.

The good news is that while you cannot buy tickets from non-affiliates, you can view showtimes. People actually use these sites to figure out when movies are playing.


Aside from their theming, they basically look and work the same way. You can search by movie or by location. If you need help figuring out how to search, then you have other things to worry about.

When you search by movie, both sites are pretty similar. You enter a zip code, and each site returns showtimes for nearby theaters affiliated with it. Let's say you live in Orange (92868) and want to watch Meet the Fockers. You search on and it returns the AMC at the Block, and the AMC Downtown Disney, then jumps over the Fullerton and Buena Park. You have to click to the next page to see Century Theaters (which will pop up first on Fandango), also located in Orange. Showtimes are on the right, and some information about the movie is on the left.

Searching by location differentiates the two much more. Fandango loses out by returning affiliated theaters and showtimes. If you want to check times for a competitor, you need to click through all of Fandango's affiliates before reaching an unaffiliated theater. adds one more step, but this is worth the hassle. If lists all of its affiliated theaters, then all of the unaffiliated ones. You choose the theater you want, then the showtimes appear.

Again, this applies only if you are searching for showtimes. Obviously if you plan on buying tickets, most of this is moot since you have no choice.

You can also tell when a showing is sold out. This is nice if you're at home and planning ahead, and have no intention of buying on-line, but only applies pretty close to the time of showing. Showings rarely sell out far in advance unless it's a big summer blockbuster.


Okay, both companies stink on these accounts. Their initial advertising campaigns were horrible and annoying. They are now both on what seems like Phase II. They moved on to a different campaign, each with different focuses. wants you to remember that it's easy to print tickets at home. They push convenience. Fandango pushes it's own name, which is the main focus of all of its ads. It is a catchy name; easy to spell and remember. Fandango is probably working better, only because sounds so generic. Fandango has the type of advertising that is annoying, but it does get you to remember the name.

The initial marketing for was with some commando family. Every trip to the movie theater was like a covert operation. They had to plan everything down to the last detail, only to be foiled at the office when the showing sold out. This sounds like something that some executive way up in some high-rise corner office thought was clever. The execution was lame, and thankfully, there were only a few commercials. Then, switched over to three dumb guys. This was marginally better. They've actually moved on, and now have ordinary people in faux-comedic situations. It's still not great, but much better than the alternative. On the whole, I prefer only because it is less annoying.

Fandango began on a worse note. Their initial campaign featured some guy who tried to sneak into theaters by saying "Fandango" in as many annoying ways as possible. This was enough to make me not want to visit the site. They switched to their current campaign, decorated lunch bags. I'm not sure what drug they were smoking when they came up with this, but this is just weird. And annoying. Each commercial has three or four scenes, and each scene is probably thirty seconds. They feature a differently decorated bag and incorporate the word "Fandango" somewhere within the dialogue. In the initial ads, nobody knew what Fandango was. Now, they do. The only one I found amusing was the Bollywood skit with singing and dancing.


Make Me Money!


So how does each of these sites make money? There are two obvious answers: banner ads and commissions.

Banner ads are the bread and butter of any established site. They appear along the top of both sites, and are typically entertainment related. And, depending on what browser you use, you may be subjected to annoying pop-up ads by both sites.

What is a commission? It's a charge that paid to the site for selling a ticket. They buy tickets at a net cost, then mark it up to the price we pay for it. The mark-up serves as revenue to the site. You'll notice that tickets cost exactly the same as at the box office. This is done on purpose. If these sites mark up prices more than retail, there is no incentive to buy on-line. If they cost less than retail, all the theaters will complain. This is pretty standard stuff; parity is essential. If you've ever bought concert tickets, airline tickets, cruises, or hotel rooms from third parties (travel agents, Expedia, Orbitz) then the place you bought from received a commission from your purchase.

The third profit vehicle is the dreaded service charge. Both sites charge $1. You can argue that you are paying for the convenience of not standing in line, but I disagree with this. If these sites want to encourage customers to use them instead of waiting in line, they will change their business model and eliminate this charge. Banner ads and commissions will have to be enough. Getting more out of the consumer is not good. If you assume that the average ticket costs $9, then the service charge amounts to an 11% surcharge. Sure it's not much, but it will build up after a while. If Amazon can eliminate shipping, then Fandango and can eliminate a service fee (maybe with a minimum purchase).

What's the good news? eliminates this fee if you are a member of the AMC Moviewatcher club. I think that this is a great thing. It gives people an incentive to join the club and an incentive to buy tickets online. And what does the Regal Crown Club do on Fandango? Nothing.


To ensure customers stay on their site, both sites need to add movie-related content to make their sites 'sticky.' This means movie news, reviews, and some other random stuff.

Fandango has more content. It gets news stories from the AP wire, has reviews from the Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times, a place to buy gift certificates, and a family section. The last section simply groups together information on films the entire family can go watch together. Nice touch. gets their news from and a store where you can buy DVDs and CDs.

And the winner is...

I have to first admit that personally, I'm not a big fan of buying tickets on-line. I have done so in the past just to see how the process works, and will do so every once in a while for an AMC showing, but remember, I hate AMC movie theaters. I simply arrive early so I can have a buffer time for standing in line.

The other caveat is that you have no real choice. Depending on what chain you want to go to, you will be able to go to one site to buy tickets. Of the two sites, is marginally better.

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