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Theater Listings and Movie Showtimes Now Support Geolocation

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015 2:31 PM by Scott Jentsch


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Ever since we began offering lists of theaters near a particular location, we've used ZIP codes as the center of those results. While we've expanded to using Canadian postal codes as well, the concept was the same: center a search on the given geographical location for a given ZIP/postal code.

While this approach is very serviceable, and helps you find a list of theaters in your area, the difficulty comes in when your current location is not close to the location given for your ZIP/postal code. This becomes more pronounced when you're in a dense area and you're trying to find the closest theaters to you.

The solution to that problem is to use geolocation when possible to determine your current location more specifically. For example, you may be at a location that is technically in a particular ZIP code, but your exact location might be several miles away from the location we have in our records for your ZIP code. Furthermore, using only ZIP codes requires you to know what ZIP code you're in, which isn't always easy if you're traveling or in a different part of town.

These issues become more pronounced when you're using a mobile device, because you are moving around with your device, as opposed to your PC which pretty much stays in the same place all the time.

As we move toward finishing the mobile version of this site, we've added several features that are worth summarizing here:

Use/Save Your Current Geolocation

Rather that just specify your ZIP/postal code, you can allow the site to find your current specific location using our Find Location tool in the Your Account section. Select the "Get GPS Location" button and the site will ask your browser for your current location. If your browser provides that information, it will return the results and ask you if you would like to use that location as your Current Location on the site, as well as offering to save that location for future use as well.

This ability is built into every web browser on mobile devices, and is also available on some desktop browsers as well. You will likely be asked if you want to share your location information, so you will need to confirm that if you want the site to have that information. This has been tested successfully on current versions of Safari on iOS devices, Chrome on Android devices, and Firefox and Chrome for the Windows PC. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer on Windows 7 and 8.1 doesn't work in our experience.

The Find Location tool also provides you with the ability to enter a ZIP/postal code as before, as well as look up those codes by city name. This tool now provides one central place to change your current location using a variety of means, in addition to the standard ZIP/postal code prompts that still appear if your location is unknown when you visit the site.

Please feel free to give this feature a try and let us know what you think!

Nearby Theaters View in Movie Showtimes

Now that we have a better idea of where you're located, we can provide you with better information in the Movie Showtimes!

For example, say you're visiting the Washington Square Arch in New York (a popular movie location), and you decide that you want to see a movie. You may know that you're in ZIP code 10011, but we wouldn't expect you to. Even if you did, the location we have for that ZIP code is about a mile from Washington Square. Given that difference, the list of theaters nearest you playing the movie you want to see may be very different.

Using geolocation, we're able to provide you with a better list of nearby theaters, so take it for a spin and see it for yourself!

Nearby Theaters View in "The Marquee"

In The Marquee, we provide a way to see a list of theaters near your location, and their showtimes. With more specific location information, we can provide you with a more accurate list of which theaters are closest to you.

Using the aforementioned example, we can provide you with a list of theaters near the Washington Square Arch in New York, starting with Washington Square Park itself, which shows movies in the summer from time to time. This provides a different listing than when just looking at theaters near ZIP code 10011.

Of course, your results with these changes may vary on your location and how closely spaced ZIP/postal codes are in your area. These changes do get us a step closer to providing a fully mobile-optimized version of the site, so we're happy about anything that gets us closer to that goal!



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