Flixter, the app Fandango should have been

Spoiler alert! If you’ve been using the old iPhone version of Fandango on your iPad, you can safely trash it. You can’t order tickets from inside the app, but it provides the info for phone ordering. In every other respect, Flixter looks like the overachieving kid brother.

But you won’t find it by searching for “Flixter” at the app store. You have to search for “movies”, because somehow the App Store confused the word “movie” in the app icon for the app name. Go figure.

I keep hearing that film and print is dead, but I still see theaters and bookstores on every other corner, at least in Austin. Now I admit that Austin has the largest congregation of hippies, Libertarians, weirdos, cranks, Christian fundamentalists and University students than any other city I’ve ever lived in. I suspect only New York and LA can outdo us.

Except for the Libertarians. New York probably lags behind Austin and LA in Libertarians. They seem to prefer the warmer climates, and the colder northeastern climates attract the just plain mean hard core right wingers who descended from the John Birch Society.

My point was that Austin may not be a representative sample of film and paper consumerism because if there’s one thing hippies, Libertarians, weirdos, cranks, Christian fundamentalists and University students have in comments is that they read and watch movies. Once they graduate, University students may never crack a cover again, but while they’re enrolled most of them read between bong hits, beer bong hits or prayer meetings. And they will always go to movies, at least until the day arrives (and it may come quickly) when university graduates emerge as America’s newest poverty class. But I suspect even then they will forego rent and a car payment to see one or two films a year.

Hippies, Libertarians, weirdos, cranks, Christian fundamentalists and University students prefer different kinds of books and movies, of course, which probably explains the huge variety of films and books available. Hippies gravitate toward off-beat comedies, Bill Maher and Michael Moore documentaries, Cheech and Chong retrospectives and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Libertarians lean toward Clint Eastwood style movies where cops ignore civil rights and do what’s right, and Wall Street and it’s sequel where they root for Michael Douglas. Weirdos prefer alien abduction movies, martial arts movies and Cheech and Chong; cranks love movies about government conspiracies and alien abductions but not Cheech and Chong. Christian fundamentalists prefer G-rated family movies, movies about the rapture and movies where the good guys rack up a really high body count of evil doers, and University students like whatever movies their peer groups gravitate toward plus foreign language and art films.

But even in cities that lack hippies, Libertarians, weirdos, cranks, Christian fundamentalists and University students, I suspect film will never die because there will always be teenage boys. And teenage boys love movies almost as much as they love video games and girls, or—if they can’t attract girls—at least the idea of girls.

As long as movie producers are willing to include bullets, bombs, car chases, girls with as few clothes as they can get away with without bumping the movie’s rating to R, there will be an audience for movies.

And as long as there are movies there will be a need for iPad apps that help viewers get to a movie that will cater to their tastes and keep them away from theaters filled with teenage boys adding their own fart and belch noises to the soundtrack.

Flixter has jumped into the market to address that need, and it’s about time because Fandango’s pathetic little iPhone app really didn’t live up to iPad standards.

Flixter outperforms Fandango in every way except the ability to order tickets online. And since I’m too cheap to pay the dollar processing fee anyway, online ordering is one feature I don’t miss.

Making the most of the iPad

Fandango’s little iPhone app was useful for finding shows and showtimes, but that was about it. The iPad has been in release for almost six months now, but Fandango seems to be dragging their feet on releasing a decent update.

Not only does Flixter provide your with all the information available from Fandango, it connects you to reviews, restaurants, and night spots—all in glorious iPad HD.

Just in case you skipped the spoiler, you won’t find it listed under “Flixter” at the app store. You have to search for “movies”, because somehow the App Store confused the word “movie” in the app icon for the app name.

Everything you wanted to know and probably some things you didn’t

Flixter and Fandango follow similar formats. You can check for all of the films showing at your favorite theaters, or you can search for the film you want to see and find the showtimes and locations of every viewing.

Sadly, Fandango packs as much as it can into the tiny little iPhone screen and simply scales the window up for the iPad. This makes film info difficult to access, and to read once you find it.

Fandango’s crowded interface

Flixter loads films (or theaters) into a scrolling pane to one side of the screen and uses most of the iPad’s screen real estate to provide links to film info, reviews, and even full screen trailers.

Flixter’s spacious viewing window.

Each link opens to another spacious window with more neatly organized links. You can check reviews from Flixter, Rotten Tomatoes, or fans, or scroll through and preview still publicity shots. Flixter even provides the Fandango ticket codes so you call order tickets over their toll-free phone line.

The links are well organized to make the most of available screen space.

After film entertainment

Flixter also helps you plan your entire evening, or find a quick meal. if you discover the movie left you with the munchies, you can launch a window inside the app with restaurant locations. You can search for restaurants by location (even narrowing your search to “walking distance”), ratings, or price.

Flixter’s in-app restaurant search engine.

Flixter doesn’t limit your entertainment options to movies and dinner. The app connects directly to Bing’s night life directory online, or, if you want to avoid the theaters altogether and spend the night in, lets you preview upcoming DVD releases before you head off to the few remaining Blockbuster stores still open.
If you want to know what movies feature your favorite actor, you can also reference the actor’s directory. Sure, you can do this on IMDB, but with Flixter you don’t need to close and launch a new app.

Working out the glitches

Flixter will probably be working out kinks for a while before the app runs with no problems. Two stood out for me. The app tends to launch a preview window for a featured release (no doubt to help pay the bills), but the preview window can freeze the app.

The trailer streaming is a little quirky. Occasionally the trailer playback catches up to the steam and pauses play. Unfortunately this also stops the streaming as well. I found I had to wait for the trailer to load at least halfway before I could start playback without any problems.

Still, I was reasonably impressed with this release. I used Fandango a lot to check movie times and info, and was never happy with the interface or performance. Flixter will now take the space Fandango used to occupy.

Jenny Manytoes rates Flixter

Jenny Manytoes purrs for Flixter. It’s far from the ultimate film reference, but it sure is useful for planning your movie date night.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad.
Please email me at iPadenvy@me.com.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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