Flixster: A Movie Watcher’s Companion

I’m the type of person that enjoys watching movies. I’m no movie buff, but I enjoy a trip to the theater or a night on the couch as the next person. One problem I do have is deciding what movie to watch whether at home or the theater. Going to the theater is more of an issue dealing with multiple theaters showing different movies at different times. Deciding what to see and where to see it have always been tough choices in my mind.

Flixster aims to be the movie watcher’s perfect companion. It can assist you in deciding what movie to watch either at a theater or at home and it can help you figure out what movies are showing at what theaters. Let’s be honest, this isn’t an incredibly tough problem to surpass in the grand scheme of things, but a free app that I can turn to when I need a little help? Sounds good to me. Let’s check it out.


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Flixster is an application that is meant to be your movie watching companion. It has all sorts of features that movie lovers would certainly find useful. It also has some functionality that could be useful for the average Joe just trying to figure out what movie to go to on Friday night.

Interface and Design

The overall design of Flixster is nice. It’s not too busy, but is able to display a lot of information in a relatively small space. The iPad’s touch interface lends itself very well to navigating the application.

The layout of the app throughout is a basic two-column. Every section of the site has essentially the same layout. The left-hand column is used more in navigating the app and the content of the app while the main window is used to display the actual information. It’s a simple design, but it works well in navigating the large amount of content Flixster provides.

Movie Finding

Flixster solves a few problems for frequent movie watchers and one of them is aiding in the often difficult act of choosing a movie to go to. This is always a challenging task for me. I never know what is available and I never know when or where they’re playing. Flixster takes care of that.

Box Office

In the Box Office section of the application you’ll find a list of the movies that are either open already or opening this week. This list is sortable by its popularity level, title or rating. It’s a nice list to browse as it shows you a bit of information about the movie before you tap on it for even more.

Looking at a movie in the Box Office view

Looking at a movie in the Box Office view.

Tapping on one of movies in the list will open that movie in the main window of the screen. Here you’ll see the movie poster along with all of the information about the movie. The rating, who stars in it, how long it is, the genre, and the synopsis among other things. There are also ratings from other Flixster users and also from Rotten Tomatoes which are critic reviews. Reviews can be mixed in their helpfulness as we all have personal tastes, but I’ll say it is nice to get some outside opinion about a film you know nothing about. You’re also able to review any released movie yourself.

Reviewing a movie

Reviewing a movie.

You’ll see a few other features that will vary slightly depending on the movie you’re checking out. For nearly all of them you’ll be able to watch a trailer for the movie. If it’s still in theaters you’ll be able to tap on a showtimes button to see when and where it is playing near you.

Browsing movies throughout the site you’ll also find a Get on iTunes button. This will take you directly to the movie in iTunes. Some of these features overlap and some are only available for certain movies so it’s a bit of a mixed bag throughout the application. For example, you won’t find a showtimes button on a movie out in DVD and you won’t find a Get on iTunes button on a movie that is still in theaters. The additional features available when checking out a movie are context specific.

Netflix

There also appears to be Netflix integration, but to be honest I’ve been struggling a bit with this. There’s a Netflix button on most of the movie listings and as far as I can tell this is supposed to add the movie to your Netflix queue.

Now, I’m not entirely sure how it is suppose to work as the button is available for movies that were just released in theaters as well. Obviously those aren’t available to put in your Netflix queue.

I managed to get Flixster connected to my Netflix account, after one warning suggesting I restart the app and try again, but I’m not sure it’s completely working. I attempted to add an old DVD release to Netflix and pressing the button resulted in nothing.

I think the problem is, although there’s no indication of it, that because I’m an "Instant only" Netflix subscriber I’m unable to add any DVD only title to my queue. Via the Actors section of Flixster I was able to find a movie I know is available as an Instant subscriber. In this situation the Netflix button changed to "Add to Instant Queue". That is quite cool, but I wish there was some information within the app on exactly how and why that works and doesn’t work the way that it does. Even so it is quite cool to be able to add movies that are available to my Netflix instant queue directly from Flixster.

One more thing to note about the Netflix integration is that you’re able to see your Netflix queue right within Flixster once you have your account connected. You can see what you have in your DVD and Instant queues. That’s pretty fantastic.

Netflix queue

Netflix queue.

Theaters

A section of the app is dedicated to helping you find movies playing at theaters near you. Here, instead of seeing the movies listed on the left-hand side you’ll find theaters listed. They are sortable by distance from you or by name. It’s also possible to mark theaters as your favorites and those will have their own dedicated section.

Checking out the theaters in my area

Checking out the theaters in my area.

When viewing a theater you’ll find all the relevant information in the main window. This would include the address and phone number as well the schedule of movies playing for the next week. Tapping on the address will open a map right within Flixster to show you where the theater is located. From there you have the option to hop to a Google Map to take advantage of the extra map feature set. There’s also a Yelp button that will open Yelp and show you restaurants in the area. This is a pretty handy feature. It makes setting up the perfect date night just that much easier.

Upcoming

This section of the application displays a listing of movies that are going to be released in the near future. The layout is exactly the same as other ares of the app.

Taking a gaze at the upcoming releases

Taking a gaze at the upcoming releases.

DVD

As you may have guessed this section of Flixster will show you a schedule of upcoming DVD releases. Again, you’ll find the same layout as in other areas of the app. And if you’re a full Netflix subscriber and the movie is available for DVD rental you can add it to your DVD queue.

The DVD section

The DVD section.

Comparisons

There are a lot of applications out there for movie lovers. Flixster drops itself in the middle of all of them and encompasses some features from many other options. In essence it does a lot of things in a simple fashion and does them quite well.

One area where Flixster lacks a little flash is in the movie exploration category. While it works well in the role there are other apps that are a bit more entertaining in their process. Fanhattan is one that is lacking some of Flixster’s functionality, but offers an arguably more engaging experience.

IMDB is another application that movie lovers should take note of for its sheer volume of information. You won’t be shorted any info about any movie your looking for, but because of that the app does feel a little more overwhelming in comparison to Flixster. Don’t get me wrong, I still use the application, but I turn to it more when a movie trivia question has been posed by a friend rather than trying to figure out what movie to go to on Friday night.

The actual discovery portion of any of these apps is one that developers have been exploring more and more with. Discovr Movies is one that takes a very different approach and lets you wander an interactive map to discover movies.

These are a few notable comparisons to Flixster and I’ll say that there are many more worth the comparison for one reason or another as well.

Final Thoughts

Flixster feels a bit utilitarian to me, but I say that in a good way. There are so many great movies out there and more are getting produced all the time – it’s challenging wading through the mess to find what you really want.

Whether that’s trying to figure out what movie to go to at the theater down the street this weekend or trying to find a good movie to add to your Netflix queue, having an application to help you through that process is fantastic. Flixster may not be the most entertaining, elegant application, but it performs many functions quickly and easily and because of that I turn to it most often.


Summary

Flixster is a movie watcher's companion providing assistance in all movie viewing situations.

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