Over the past two years I have seen 90% of all major theatrical movie releases. With the rising cost of theater tickets, you’d have to think that I took a second mortgage out on my house or sold a kidney to do so. But what if I told you that not only did I see these films in 3D, but also completely FREE! That wasn’t a typo. FOR FREE! The bonus to this all, is that the movies I attend are advanced screenings. That means I get to see movies weeks to months before the general public does. Now I know what you are thinking, I’m sounding like Kevin Trudeau or that crazy guy who wears the suit covered in question marks. I swear this is 100% legit. Now I’m not going to lie, my process takes some effort, but once you realize how simple it is, you’ll hit yourself in the head for throwing your money away.
The bonus to attending advanced screenings is that you don’t have to sit through long previews. Some screenings are so early that they haven’t even been rated by the MPAA, so you may actually see the unrated version only viewable upon DVD release. Downside is that the theaters are purposely over booked to guarantee a packed house, so seating is on a first come first served basis. Because of this, attendees are asked to show up at least an hour before start time. Major blockbusters like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises or even Twilight may require you to be at the theater two hours before hand unless you want to attempt to watch a 3D film from the front row or be separated from the rest of your party. Reservations do not guarantee seating. One last thing: Be prepared to travel. The theater down the street may not be showing a screener, but the larger theater across town may. Regardless, the pros outweigh the cons especially when it comes bragging rights that you saw a major motion picture before everyone else, and you did it for FREE!
So follow these steps and you’ll be saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars like I have.
Step 1 : Gofobo is your new best friend
Before you can do anything, you must first register on Gofobo.com. This is a site where movie studios, PR firms and other media partners coordinate with the general public by releasing RSVP codes. Why do movie studios want you to see their movies for free? Mainly because of free word of mouth advertising and social media opinion sharing. At most screeners a studio representative may either ask people what they thought as audience members leave or have questionnaires to fill out.
By plugging in your zip code and a mile radius, you’ll be able to see what screeners are in your area. Some are “Public” and others are “Private.” Public ones are open to anyone until passes run out. Private ones are usually only obtainable through contests from local radio, television, newspaper and magazines. Other Private RSVP codes are released by following specific Twitter accounts or liking Facebook pages. Gofobo has a fantastic article posted on what exactly is an RSVP code here. The other bonus to signing up for Gofobo is that they will send you invites to your email if certain screeners are not filled. Per Gofobo’s terms of service, you are allowed up to two accounts per household, so sign up with two email addresses. Reason for this if you are a parent like myself, this is a nice way to score a family 4 pack of passes instead of just a pair.
Other sites to register on:
These sites do not have RSVP codes, but rather printable passes for specific movie studios.
Step 2: Join your local radio station’s membership club
Radio Stations around the country give passes away to the “X” caller every once in a while. But who wants to listen to them all the time and end up calling a busy signal? Instead, those same radio stations have listener rewards programs or members clubs. These websites will offer its listeners a chance to trade in points earned from answering trivia questions or clicking sponsored links to win prizes such as computers, gift cards, video games and other cool items. What isn’t advertised is that they also let people trade in points to get screener passes. In order to find out when these hidden trade-ins occur, you either have to routinely check into the site or better yet, just subscribe to their newsletter. What makes this technique so useful is because most radio stations are either a Clear Channel or CBS Radio Network radio station. Most use the same PR firms, contests and even trivia questions. Besides radio stations, I recommend also signing up for your local television and newspaper website newsletters too.
Step 3: Learn what local PR Firms are in your area
The job of a movie PR firm is to generate excitement about upcoming releases through marketing, articles, events and prizes. But who are they and how do they do it? One of the largest firms is Allied Integrated Marketing. For movies, Allied uses the header 43KIX on Twitter accounts and Facebook pages throughout the country within major cities or regions from Los Angeles to Miami and even Canada. With the links I provided, you want to look up your city and follow or like them. Besides latest trailers and Hollywood news, they give away Gofobo RSVP codes and DVD prize packs.
The other thing Allied/43Kix does is market movies that do not use Gofobo codes from studios like Disney and DreamWorks. They only issue what’s called a “Hard Pass.” These passes you may have to pick up from a radio station or are mailed to winners. Usually Allied will post a link to a Google Document where you fill in you info.
Now Allied is not the only PR firm in the country, but they are one of the largest. If you attend enough screeners, you’ll know which firm is working the event, just ask them what their Twitter and Facebook is. They will be more than happy to share it.
Step 4: Let websites do the work for you
Another tool to use are websites that are dedicated to searching the web for advanced screenings. One such website is AdvanceScreenings.com. All you have to do is simply enter a movie title or city at the top of the page and it will list screeners in your area. You will also want to like their Facebook page and follow the Twitter page from your state or city.
Other websites with screener listings are:
Wild About Movies: http://www.wildaboutmovies.com
Step 5: Use social media to your advantage
Let’s face it, you’re on social media all day anyway, so why not use it to your advantage? If you paid attention to my previous steps, I mention often about following specific Twitter accounts and liking Facebook pages. I cannot emphasize how important this step is. If you are like most people, you are glued to your social media streams. The majority of sites will immediately post new screeners so you don’t have to keep going to the specific websites. When it comes to Twitter, I also recommend that you turn on mobile notifications. The reason is that some passes go so quick that if you wait for the refresh, you could miss out. Mobile notifications will immediately send a text message to your cell phone the second the site tweets. So make sure you follow the PR firms, websites, radio stations and even the movie studios.
Step 6: Get your friends and family to join in on the fun
Like I said these steps are actually not too hard once you get into a routine, but why not make it even easier and work as a team with your friends and family. I know of private movie clubs on Facebook that coordinate all movie links, Gofobo codes and radio station contests. Some even share login info so people can just enter codes for each other. And if you don’t have any friends, you’ll notice the same people at screeners, introduce yourself and trade secrets. Trust me, you’ll have time in line to make new friends before the screeners.
Now these resources are not the only ones available, some are nationwide as where others are limited in specific areas especially rural areas. Depending on the regional market, not all movies will be available. A screener in Dallas, may not be showing in Chicago. But one thing that is for certain, the money you save, you’ll be able to splurge on popcorn and Sour Patch Kids.
Want to save more money? Sign up for theater chains newsletters. Not only do you get showtimes for movies, but they also will send you money saving coupons for concessions. Some theater chains like Cinemark will sell refillable cups and popcorn buckets that are only $3 to refill. So not only are you seeing the movie for free, but also eating cheap.
Cinemark Theaters: http://www.cinemark.com
Regal Theaters: http://regmovies.com
AMC Theaters: http://www.amctheatres.com
And now that my secret is out, I hope to see more enthusiastic movie reviewers popping up on the Internet! You’re welcome! If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below. If you have any questions, also feel free to ask in the comments.