April 21. 2013 9:55PM

Online ticket options for movies grow

Special to The Union Leader

Patrons visit the concessions at the O'neil Cinemas, which opened in November in the Brickyard Square shopping center in Epping. Moviegoers can purchase tickets -- and choose their seats -- on the theater's website. Jason Schreiber 

There is a question on Yahoo Answers from 2008 asking if it's possible to pre-order tickets to a movie online. At the time there was only one answer mentioning the then little known site Fandango.com and an assurance from the writer that the site was legit.

Just five years later, the options for purchasing movie tickets abound and include not only online options but ordering by phone and using mobile aps. According to a report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., roughly $13.72 Billion is expected to be spent by consumers online by 2017.

And while this trend is meant to relieve box office lines and make life a little easier going to the movies, in addition to the $1 to $2 convenience fee, the online ticketing process can get confusing and isn't always available to everyone.

Dominating the online market are MovieTickets.com and Fandango.com, but individual theaters also offer online tickets sales. And that's where it got a little sticky for Debbie Viem, 51, of Manchester. Viem said she recently purchased a Fandango gift card at a local chain drug store for her brother as a gift only to find out, he wasn't going to be able to use it.

"The closest (Fandango) theater was Tyngsborough, Mass.," Viem said. "So I basically lost money, because there's no theater around here. .I think it's very misleading."

Basically Fandango.com is a third-party ticket seller. Meaning, a person can go to the site, buy movie tickets and use the tickets at the theater. However, the gift cards cannot be used at the theater. Taking a Fandango card to a theater would be like trying to use a Shaw's gift card at a Market Basket, for example. So though these gift cards are sold at major retailers throughout the state, very few New Hampshire theaters use Fandango to sell tickets.

"They'll have on there our listing and our times, but we don't sell tickets through them," said Lacee Donohoe, general manager for O'Neil Cinemas in Londonderry. "We use our own web site to tell our tickets."

So for theaters who choose to do their online ticketing through Fandango, the card can be used to purchase tickets in New Hampshire. For those theaters that do the ticketing themselves or through another online place, the cards cannot be used. And that's the problem, said Viem, most theaters in New Hampshire don't do the ticketing through them.

And some places never will, Donohoe said primarily because it costs the theater extra money.

"I don't think we will. We're pretty happy with our ticketing system," she said. "I don't know that all the theaters aren't using them, but I think it's just smaller chains haven't linked up with them yet."