October 26, 2011

Can Filmbot Make it Easier to See Movies in the Closest Theaters with Friends?

I'm visiting friends in Denver, CO this week and the movie we all want to see is Moneyball. So my friends bring up Fandango to find out where it's playing locally. However, what they don't know is that Fandango, like its competitor MovieTickets.com, doesn't simply show you the nearest theaters as you would expect. Instead, both sites prioritize their own partner theaters and, to varying degrees, hide theaters from which they don't collect commission on ticket sales (often relegating theaters to the next page even though they're closer geographically). Enter Filmbot, a new independent showtime engine that promises to treat all theaters equally, including independent listings and special screenings, and that also aims to make your theatrical experience personalized and social using Facebook. It's limited to New York city right now, but it should be expanding to other areas soon. Here's the demo video:

The site answers all your questions in one place: what's playing, where and when, how's the trailer, and what are the reviewers saying? And it does so by being a brilliant mashup of existing web sites and services. Filmbot currently requires Facebook to log in, but creator Max Friend tells me they're adding non-Facebook login functionality as well.

Facebook or not, the social features will only be useful if the site achieves critical mass among your friends -- meaning, it's not useful unless the majority of your personal friends are also using it. This is of course the same challenge every social site faces. In the case of movies, however, I'm not sure how motivated I am to find out what my real friends think, which shows that I'm friends with them for reasons other than their cinematic tastes. I trust the critics more than I trust my buddies, which makes it a good thing that Filmbot automatically pulls in Rotten Tomatoes ratings and New York Times reviews. Regardless, making the theatergoing experience social is and should be a primary focus of Filmbot, and I hope it catches on. One way to get a jump might be to pull in ratings from existing services like Netflix, for example (where I've rated over 1,000 films).

I'm less convinced with the genre customization functions, as I tend to like the crème de la crème of a year's movies regardless of what genre they fall under. Just because I liked The Dark Knight and Drive doesn't mean I'll also appreciate The Avengers and Fast Five, for example: it's more a matter of the director than it is the genre, though this may be the case for cineastes more so than the moviegoing masses. Still, I don't find the "bot" part of the Filmbot name (seen at left), despite the fun factor of creating a customized avatar, to be particularly informative. Not to mention, if I'm going to spend the time listing my favorite genres, I would prefer the homepage to show "movies for me" as opposed to "big movies" by default. There's a tremendous opportunity to better integrate and promote independent films alongside the blockbusters, and by giving blockbusters their own visually-rich page and relegating indie films to an "all movies" text-only listing, Filmbot is doing the opposite of what I'd like to see as an independent filmmaker.

Still, for a startup site in beta, I'm nitpicking. For me personally the question is whether I'll start using Filmbot or stick with my current method of finding showtimes, Google Movies, which is similarly agnostic towards online ticket providers. But I want to see Filmbot succeed and grow to include listings in other areas, so I tossed out a few suggestions above. Filmbot's Facebook integration is admirable -- for that matter, basically everything about the site is admirable -- and despite a few beta bugs (after rating a "movie I want to see," it stays in that category despite the fact that I've already seen it), it's a much-needed new entrant to the space. If you're in New York City, check out Filmbot now, and if you're anywhere else, it's definitely a site to keep tabs on.

Link: Filmbot

[via Brian Newman]

Your Comment


Hi Koo,

Thanks for the kind words and the feedback! We really appreciate your thoughts as we iterate and continue to improve the site amidst all the support we’ve been getting since our launch.

A couple thoughts:

Since we each usually go to the movies with someone from our circle of 5-10 good friends, FilmBot does really not need to achieve the same sort of high level critical mass as, say, Facebook. Once your handful of moviegoing friends is on FilmBot, the site reaches the critical mass it needs to be valuable to you. We’re more aiming to foster many ‘mini-social networks’ of real moviegoing friends, rather than one huge social network of people you don’t know.

To clarify the meaning of the genre parts you select for your FilmBot avatar, they do not have to reflect the films you enjoy seeing, nor do they affect how films are presented on the site - it’s more for fun :)

In terms of using Google Movies, our frustration with that search platform is that we feel like we have to know what exactly we're searching for, rather than being able to browse and discover. It also doesn’t integrate the social aspect of moviegoing into the search process or include Rotten Tomatoes and the New York Times reviews for films.

As we move forward, we’re currently developing functionality that will allow moviegoers to further customize how movies are presented on their homepage (for example, if you really enjoy documentaries, those types of films will be more visible to you) and we also love your idea about developing director-oriented FilmBot parts!

Thanks again for the constructive feedback and support,

Max Friend
FilmBot.com, Founder

October 26, 2011 at 1:27PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This looks really good but if it only was covering more than just New York

October 26, 2011 at 1:44PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


It's just starting, hopefully soon!

October 26, 2011 at 2:38PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

hopefully, i also hope that no other service like rotten tomatoes or Netflix try to steal this.

October 26, 2011 at 4:10PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hi Max,

Are you working on covering other cities?

October 26, 2011 at 2:09PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Julio Alvarez

Definitely Julio! We're currently in the process of expanding to LA and San Francisco, as well as other cities in the U.S. with vibrant film scenes.

October 26, 2011 at 2:26PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I want it. Now. Come to Atlanta. :) I love the concept of the trustometer. Man, need something like that on our Netflix queue. It's practically schizophrenic. My wife and I have a divergent taste in movies. So if she scores something high, we start get suggestions for movies that I'd never watch, and vice versa. Something like that trustometer on Netflix could probably deal with that issue (I guess it would also require Netflix profiles. But let's not get into Netflix.

Anyway, I hope it spreads. Seems like a great idea! Thanks for sharing Koo.

October 26, 2011 at 6:00PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


i hate new york so who cares. let me know when it hits regular America.

October 27, 2011 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This site is amazing! The concept of this is genius. I only wish that I could live in L.A. when this comes out over there so that I could be the guy who introduced it to all of my friends. Now all I have to do is graduate and move there cause there is no way a service like this is going to come to Tallahassee. Haha. Great work Max!

October 27, 2011 at 7:18PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks Omar, really appreciate it! Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @MaxFilmBot to keep up with FilmBot.

October 28, 2011 at 3:13AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Great for NYC. What about Pocatello, Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee, and Kalamazoo? Oh yes Tucumcari too.

October 28, 2011 at 8:04AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM