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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Does anyone still get movie times from newspapers?

The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander had readers howling in his in-box recently after the paper stopped running listings of movie showtimes. It wasn’t the Post’s choice, though:

Most readers believe that it was the newspaper’s decision, like The Post’s recent move to cut costs by making TV week an opt-in insert. In fact, movie listings in the print product are paid advertising, and it was AMC’s decision to stop paying.

(Multiplexes have been paying for those listings? I had no idea! I’ve never seen them marked as advertising…)

Now the Associated Press is on the story:

The top two U.S. chains, Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc., have begun in recent months to reduce or eliminate the small-type listings showing the start times for movies at individual theaters. Theaters typically must pay newspapers to print that information.

Looking to cut costs, the theater chains are instead directing consumers to their Internet sites or third-party sites, like Fandango, Moviefone or Flixster, which offer those listings for free and make money from the fees they charge for selling advance tickets to movies. Many of those sites also feature film reviews and movie trailers.

This will hurt newspapers, of course, but they’ve already rendered themselves irrelevant. I wouldn’t be paying to list anything in a newspaper that no one is reading anymore, especially when the same information is much easier to find and search online.

And readers have come to expect such listings. Seeing them curtailed or disappear could give them yet another reason to abandon their subscriptions. This seems like the least likely upshot of the move away from newspaper listings of movies:

[Mort Goldstrom, the Newspaper Association of America’s vice president of advertising] said the pullback in listings will hurt theaters by reducing their visibility among potential customers, sending those dollars to competitors that still buy listings or to other sources of entertainment like plays or clubs.

Ha. No. If I want to go see a movie, I’m not going to suddenly decide I’d rather go to a play or a club because my newspaper isn’t listing movie times. Is this guy serious?

The real question is: Does anyone still get movie times from newspapers?

I can’t remember the last time I looked at paper, period. Newspaper Web sites, sure, but a paper paper? Years, certainly. When I want to know what’s playing where, I check the Web. Who doesn’t?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Marc

    Working at a theater, I can say that a large number of our customers still rely on the movie listings in the paper to get our showtimes rather than heading to our website or one of the many aggregate movie times places on the web. It’s easy to underestimate just how many people just do what they’ve always done even in the face of new conveniences.

  • JoshB

    I check a newspaper if I’m on the road without easy web access. That happens at most once or twice a year.

  • Ken

    I’m going to guess that people still getting movie times from a newspaper aren’t going to be commenting online that they do so.

  • cinecat

    I also work at a theatre and I can confirm that many people get their showtimes from newspapers. Unfortunately, where I live (western Canada), they seem to have eliminated the showtime ads that chains and individual theatres used to take out–and the papers now just list showtimes as they see fit. Often times, these are incorrect. And when customers get the wrong showtimes, who do they get mad at? The paper? No. The theatre–and they usually vent their frustrations at the poor box office clerk. It’s like they expect us to honor the paper’s showtimes.

    Of course, what they usually don’t see is the print at the end of these listings that strongly suggests people doublecheck the times with the theatre to avoid disappointment.

    As for me, when I see a movie, I get my times off theatres’ official sites on the web. So if the papers stop printing showtimes, I wouldn’t miss it at all.

  • When all you have to do is text “Inglourious Basterds 90210” to 46645 (GOOGL) to get movie times, it’s easy to see why theaters would stop paying for their print ads. That being said, it can’t be so expensive that they’re actually saving a significant amount of money by discontinuing the practice, can it?

  • Judy Bradley

    I absolutely hate it that the papers do not list the movies, the daily tv, or much of anything anymore. I am about ready to cancel my subscription. I WANT those listings in there. I often take that page with me when I go out for the day with a friend and we like to look at the listings. Maybe we want to change our minds about which theater we go to or which movie – depending where we are later in the day. I don’t always carry a computer with me, and it is a whole lot easier to look at the newspaper listing.

  • LaSargenta

    I’m going to guess that people still getting movie times from a newspaper aren’t going to be commenting online that they do so.

    Wrong, bucko! ;-)

    I get a print subscription to the NYT that arrives early every morning in my foyer and I read that. Despite working a regular job, I actually usually eat a hot breakfast at home with the newspaper (and child). I double-check on-line news at lunch or during a break at work, but I do not rely it for everything as I don’t have time set aside to spend on the web for non-work-related things. Any time I do is serendipitous.

    I get my entertainment times from the paper, from my friends who are going to be in something, and from a bunch of e-mailing lists that send me invites to my Inbox.

    Some genius I know has mocked me for not getting an iPhone, Blackberry, or Palm Pre just for this very purpose…checking theater times! Riiiiiiight. I’m going to pay, what, $150/ month? $100/month? more than I pay now for my very utilitarian cellphone just to be able to Have. It. All. Now. And. In. My. Hand. when I could just plan ahead.

  • Mimi

    I still use the newspaper for movie listings, though I won’t be any more — I subscribe to the Washington Post. I also only see 2-3 movies in the theater each year since having kids (spontaneity? ha!), so no one’s going to be basing any business decisions on my habits… I love reading the Post in print at breakfast, though I also spend a lot of time online each day: reading other newspapers, discussion forums and blogs; checking email; messing around on facebook; etc etc etc. It won’t kill me to look up movie times online, but I’d prefer the paper if I had the choice.

  • Karen P

    Yup – I do, as recently as two weeks ago when I went to see District 9.

  • I used one just this past weekend when I went to the movies with a friend. Plus it’s a lot more convenient when you’re driving to simply hand someone the movie listings in the local newspaper than to hand over reams of online printouts.

    Plus, not everyone owns a computer. Not everyone can afford to own a laptop or an I-phone. And there used to be a time when liberals actually gave a damn about such people instead of treating them like they were lepers.

    Middle-class privilege is still privilege. I’ll own up to mine if you own up to yours.

  • Joanne

    Yes. I get the Saturday Guardian every week and they have a little “Guide” containing movie times as well as the TV listings. I like it because I can compare different cinemas, and if there’s something a bit obscure on it’s easy to find where it’s showing.

  • mel

    I read two newspapers daily and rarely read online news unless there’s a breaking story at night, or in times of crisis (like the Victorian bushfires this year).

    I like movie sessions, as someone says, its easier to compare which theatre is running which show and where i can go. Australia has two main theatre chains and i live near one of each, and an arthouse theatre, its easier to open the paper to one page and have all three listings in front of me instead of navigating three sites, one of which is poor and harder to use than the other.

    So yeah, love my paper listings, love my news paper.

  • iakobos

    I haven’t bothered with the paper listings in years. I get my movies times from Fandango.

  • Ide Cyan

    Still do, especially when the computer or the internet connection are down or out of reach. Hardcopies are still the most reliable backups for the information age. But it’s also handy to have everything printed out on big newspaper sheets so that you don’t have to scroll through or click through a dozen pages to see what’s playing at different theatres.

  • Chuck

    What is this “newspaper” you speak of?

    No, have not used a newspaper for anything in years, much to the frustration of my bird.

    Sometimes use the web, but some of the theater chains (AMC) have just terrible web sites, nearly useless if you are in a rush.

    +1 on the Google text.

  • Lisa

    i still get mine from the paper – I like having all the movies all the times in one place whereas the internet is too bitty i have to open a ooupla pages to get all the info i’m looking for as there are loads of cinemas near me.

  • markyd

    Wow. Didn’t expect all the newspaper defenders. While I DO read the paper everyday, I never even consider it for movie listings. It’s all about Fandango. I also tend to plan my movie outings way ahead of time.
    Doesn’t any right proper movie geek know what movies they are going to see at least a few hours ahead of time ; if not days, weeks, or even months? I don’t get all this deciding going on outside of the home.
    I like Kens comment.

  • Jerry Colvin

    Still get times from the paper, though not exclusively. Have yet to find a website that truly lists 100 percent of the cinemas in some large cities, crucial if I’m seeking non-mainstream fare.

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