Money Tip Tuesday: Free Advance Movie Screenings

If you love movies, I have some quick tips to see them for free! Although my obsession with movies started young, I only learned about free movie screenings when I was in college. For about an hour of my time before the movie, I could see movies before they were even released! This was basically heaven for me, and I ended up joining the movie club to help host them myself. After hosting over 30+ free movie screenings, I've gleaned a few tips about the process:

Advance Movie Screening Tips and Guide Below!
1. Set up an alert to get an email for your city at www.advancescreenings.com. Your chances of seeing movies will be higher if you live near a city, but I still see opportunities for areas across the country. 

You can also follow city-specific screenings on Twitter and Facebook. Just type in "(your_city) screenings" on social media and follow those specific accounts. A good general one for the US is @cinemit. You can set up your Twitter account to get text alerts whenever they tweet a new screening, or have a Twitter list specifically set up for new screenings.

Typical Advance Screening Email you will get
When you see the alert, you're going to have to JUMP and immediately try to grab passes. If you live in a large metropolitan area, you might have less than a half hour for a popular movie. So, have your login information for the screening websites (like gofobo) memorized and ready before you need them. Most of the time, you will get tickets; you just have to make sure you don't put it off for a day after getting the alert.

2. Arrive early. This is the biggest factor in whether you are getting in or not! Once the theater is filled, there is usually nothing the organizers of the screening can do to help you. Tickets don't mean you're getting in, as organizers must print thousands of tickets to ensure 200-300 people attend a screening. Unless you are on the reserved list, it's best to arrive early.

Plan to get there earlier!
For deciding when to get there, consider the popularity of the movie and your city. For example, Philly had a screening of The Social Network just as it was getting a ton of buzz and way before its regular release. If you weren't there 2 hours before the start time, you weren't getting in. Same thing with Bridesmaids. One good way I've found to check the popularity is to ask my "non-movie" friends. If they only see 1-2 movies a year in theaters and tell you they are interested in seeing it, the movie is almost certainly going to be big. 

Another good tip is that if you see multiple screenings for the same movie in the same city. I've learned that this often means that the movie studios have a ton of faith in the movie and are looking to build word of month. When the trailer for Pitch Perfect first came out, my friend and I couldn't believe anyone who be interested in the movie version of Glee. Our first screening was moderately well attended, but the second screening was PACKED! After hearing it was good, people went in droves to the next free screening!

For most screenings in Philly (not to-be-blockbusters), showing up an hour or so before the start time would guarantee a seat. In other areas I've seen screenings, you could show up right before and still get in. I would recommend going 1-1.5 hours early for your first screening in your area, and paying close attention to who gets in. You can also ask other people around you in line for advice. Most will be more than willing to talk to you!

3. Be flexible. The hosts of the screening will be looking to completely fill the auditorium; this means the front-row seats will need to get filled. If you have a group more than 2 people, consider how your group will split up before you get inside the theater. The time you spend talking with your group often means losing out on perfectly good seats. 

The other thing to look for would be seats above and below each other (see diagram below with purple indicating open seats). When a group of five and I went to see Iron Man, we sat in two rows on the far left. Honestly, we could probably hear and talk to each other better seated this way! So, don't get stuck looking for a ton of seats all in a straight line.
Where to Sit in a Movie with a Group: Purple is open seats
Some other questions I've gotten as an advance screening host:
Q: Am I seeing the "finished" movie at an advance movie screening?
A: 95% of the time, yes. If you are seeing the movie 2-4 weeks before it comes out, it is basically finished. If there is a lot more time, there is a chance you are in a test screening. This means that you likely see a longer version of the movie at the advance screening. It's way more common for comedies to use test screenings to cut jokes than any other genre.

Q: What is it like to go to a screening?A: It's not too different from going to a sold-out movie on a Friday night. Show the ticket-taker your screening ticket or pass, and line up near the theater. A little bit before the movie, the host will take your ticket and you'll go in. There usually aren't any trailers or advertisements before the movie.

Q: Are there any seats for people with disabilities?
A: Yes. For all of the big advance screening marketing companies, the hosts are required to leave 2-4 seats available for people with physical disabilities. If you are worried, email the company. 

Through these tips, I've seen some great movies and some terrible movies for free! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer!

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