Friday, January 18, 2019

What to Expect when Attending an Advance Screening

For the past two years, I have been attending advance movie screenings. Now that I’ve gotten used to the process, I thought I’d share what the experience is like and offer some tips on how you can attend advance screenings yourself and what you can expect from the whole experience.

The number one thing to know if you’re going to attend an advance screening is that you’ll want to get there early. In most cases, the ticket doesn’t guarantee you a seat in the theater. I have been told to arrive a half hour early, but even then I’ve seen lines that run all up and down the theater halls by that point. I have been turned away at full theaters, even if the line didn’t seem that long. And just because you get a seat doesn’t mean you get a good seat. So the earlier the better.

The waiting is the worst part. For highly anticipated movies, lots of contests and promotions are run for the same screening and it can be very anxious waiting for over half an hour when you know there is a chance you might not even get in. Also, I once had to wait in a line outside in the middle of winter. Another time, also in the winter, a line formed outside at 9:30AM for a 10AM screening, but the theater wasn't even open yet.

One thing that surprised me a few times was being asked to turn in my phone. While these kinds of events are meant to generate word of mouth buzz, they still don’t want anyone recording the movie or causing any disturbances in the theater. I haven’t figured out a way to predict if/when I'll have to turn in my phone, so it’s not specific to any studio or marketing firm. We also had to turn in our camera. It's not a huge hassle and we've never had any problems.

If you do make it to the front of the line and there are still seats available, they’ll want to see your ticket. If it’s a printed out piece of paper, they’ll take it away. If it’s on your phone, they’ll just scan it.

Once you do get in the theater, they still try to make sure they fill every seat, so the film won’t always start on schedule. You can take this time to go get snacks and drinks. Although it can be kinda awkward just walking back in since they take your ticket away. If you're attending alone, make sure to leave a jacket behind to claim a seat.

Before the screening starts, the screen may be blank and the lights may be on, or you could be sitting in complete darkness in a packed theater surrounded by strangers without your phone. Sometimes a promotional still will be up on the screen with hashtags and such telling you to go talk about the film after.

I have never been to a screening with any trailers, ads, or even messages about theater etiquette. Sometimes a guy in a fancy suit will say a few words, but after that, it’s straight into the movie.

No matter how many of these I’ve done, it never gets old and I never really get used to it. I’ve figured out all the tricks, but still get turned away for not coming earlier enough. Of course, the thrill of seeing a movie before most people is always there. I always try to post a review when I go to a screening, either on the blog at least a short Twitter thread. If you’re invited to a public screening, there is never a review embargo or NDA. Getting other people excited about it is the whole reason these kinds of events take place. So go forth and spread the awesomeness!

Here are a few tips for attending advance screenings.

  • Sign up for newsletters and updates from places like or GoFoBo. Major studios also have their own lists you can sign up for. If you sign up for one from, you may end up on the studio’s newsletter by default.
  • Every screening for an animated children’s movies I've seen has always been early on Saturday mornings, a full week before the release date. Other screenings are usually just a few nights before.
  • Considering these kinds of screenings are meant for building hype, you won’t see a lot of screenings for major blockbusters. I’ve never seen a screening for a Marvel, Disney, or Star Wars movie. Instead, expect a lot of smaller releases. Deadpool 2 was the biggest one I’ve seen.
  • If you get free tickets to a Fathom Events screening through press or a contest, get their early. Your seats may technically be reserved, but every time I've gone to one the staff has had no idea what to do with me so it always takes at least two managers and they always just make something up to get us seats.
  • Advance screenings are usually held in major cities only and only in one theater per city. Once you’ve been to a few, learn which theaters hold events and keep an eye on their social media and newsletters.
  • Follow local comic shops, game stores, and similar venues on social media as well. They often get a few tickets as well and give them out at their store or through online contests.

Advance screenings can be stressful when you’re unsure if you’re going to get a seat, but it’s always a lot of fun to see a movie even just a day early. All I can speak about are my experiences in my city, so go out and see what it’s like for yourself.