The Screening Secret Handshake

Once upon a time, I thought that in order to see an advance screening of a movie certain things had to occur.  A) You had to live in LA/Hollywood.  Or 2) You had to know someone on the inside.  Or D) You had to be lucky.

In my younger days, I’d only ever seen “Stay & See” screenings.  That’s where you’d pay to see one movie and then be allowed to stay and see a screening of a not yet released film, or you’d pay to see a screening of a soon to be released film and then get to stay and see some movie that’s already been out a couple of weeks.  The last of these I went to was in 1993, and it was Son In Law (yeah, the Pauly Shore movie) coupled with either Life With Mikey or For Love Or Money (both Michael J. Fox movies).  I can’t remember which was the screening and which was the released film.  But it doesn’t matter.  Anyway, a few years ago, I finally realized number 2 from above and met someone on the inside, someone who worked for a movie promotion company.  Through them I got to see a few movies, but there were times they couldn’t get passes, or couldn’t get enough for everyone.  But at some of these screenings, I met people who let me know that while number 2 was good, D was better and you could minimize the luck part of the equation.

People have asked me, in person, in email and on message board, “How do you to see so many movie screenings?”  Partly because I just want to, and partly because of the FTC ruling, I’ll tell you.  The answer is… I Googled.  Obviously, I don’t use Google to find passes anymore, but it is where I started.  “free screenings” was what I searched for and it lead me to a number of really awful websites and blogs, but by doing the legwork and looking through many of those facades, I found a few places, legitimate places, to acquire passes to free movie screenings.

Before I go on, keep in mind that I live in Atlanta, and these sites are the ones that best service me as someone who lives in Atlanta.  If you Google and search yourself, you can probably find other sites that better service where you live.

Further, if you do get passes to movie screenings, remember, you are a guest and are getting to see a movie for free.  So, don’t be an asshole.  Always put your phone on silent, don’t answer it, don’t text.  Don’t talk during the movies.  Don’t cut in line.  Don’t let twenty friends cut in line with you in front of the people behind you who managed to get there on time (you know, letting one or two people join you in line is fine, but when you have to ask the line to move back and make room, you’ve gone overboard).  Be kind, be courteous, and enjoy your free movie.

That said…

My current favorite place is Shakefire.  They do reviews for movies, music, TV and video games.  They also have columnists who occasionally talk about other stuff.  They have a community built around their forums.  And of course, they give out passes for movie screenings.  You have to join their site to have a chance, and they seem to favor people who participate in the forums over people who are just there to leech passes.  But hey, if you are there for the passes, the least you can do is go post about movies you’ve seen and what you thought.  The whole point of screenings is to get the word out anyway, so, get the word out.

CHUD is another place on the net for reviews and such, and they also give out passes and do other contests, but you’ll have to work a little more for these as they usually ask a question or two you need to answer in order to enter.

Film Metro is a good site for screenings, but they don’t give them out.  Instead you have to keep an eye out for when they become available and claim them.  Sometimes you get to know when, sometimes it just happens.

Another big player is GoFoBo.  This is a site actually run by a couple of movie promotion companies.  With them, sometimes screening just open up and you can grab a pass or two.  Mostly, however, you need a reservation code.  Codes are given to various websites or radio stations or newspapers or other outlets as part of promotions intended to drive traffic.  People used to post GoFoBo codes all over the internet, but GoFoBo has been cracking down lately and convincing people to post links to the partner websites instead.  Finding links for these partners is sort of hit and miss searching, but one place that seems to get a steady flow of them is this thread over at FatWallet.  The FatWallet thread is also a good place to find out which radio stations or other websites in your area give out movie passes.  That link will always take you to the last post in the thread, so you may have to read back to see anything recent you may have missed.  Do them a favor, and make sure you actually visit partner sites and look around, the codes are meant to drive traffic, and a couple minutes of your time is worth the free movie pass you just got.  GoFoBo also runs groups on Facebook, just search there for screenings or gofobo.

Also don’t forget to check out local publications like Creative Loafing or other print media who often have pass pickups at their offices, or will post ads about pass pickups at local businesses.

Anyway, there you have it.  I check those sites about once a day, maybe twice, and in general I end up seeing a screening a week (though sometimes there are weeks with none, and sometimes there are weeks with three or four or more).  To me, the key here is that if you go to see screenings, make sure you tell people about the movies you saw.  Tell friends, post on message boards, write a blog.  The screenings are meant to get the word out about the movie, so, get the word out.

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