Movie ticket apps allow you to skip the worst parts of going to the movies (looking up movies, waiting in line to buy tickets and snacks) and jump straight to enjoying the best part (the movie itself, duh!).
While some people may argue that this process was part of the fun, the rest of us were pretty stoked when ticket-buying apps stepped in and streamlined the process. Now, you can buy luxury reserved-seating movie tickets for you and your friends to a Saturday night movie without even getting out of bed.
Several attempts in recent years tried to create the best movie ticket app, but it was a doomed effort for most who bothered. Novel new ideas like MoviePass tried and eventually failed. Former movie information cornerstones like Moviefone no longer thrive. And, most other notable properties were eventually absorbed by bigger fish like Fandango. In fact, the only other company that’s truly been able to create a movie ticket buying app and remain successful is Atom. Together, Atom and Fandango are the reigning binary stars of the movie ticket app world.
Though Atom and Fandango are similar in what they do, they each have a feature or two that will make them appealing to different people. So, if you’re deciding which movie ticket app to use, think about what little extras you can’t live without, such as loyalty programs, pre-purchasing concessions, and special event tickets for third-party screenings (like Studio Ghibli Fest 2019, which is one of many events hosted by Fathom Events). Whatever you hope to get out your moviegoing experience, using one of these apps is the best way to skip the lines and to enjoy the latest blockbusters.
Best for Ticket Sharing: Atom
Atom (Free) is a well-rounded app. In addition to all of the features it offers, the user interface is beautiful and a pleasure to navigate. Current and upcoming movies are easy to see with large thumbnails, and you can easily scroll through the options and either watch trailers or purchase tickets. You can scroll or navigate through the menu to see upcoming movies, look for nearby theaters (or theaters anywhere), read the latest movie news and reviews, and see special events in your area. Trailers are also available for current and upcoming movies within the app.
Atom has a super cool feature where, for certain theaters, you can purchase your soda and popcorn ahead of time, allowing you to skip lengthy concessions lines and simply pick up your snacks as you’re walking into your movie. Some theaters will even deliver your snack order directly to your seat (provided you are there a little early, before the lights dim).
The app boasts over 95 theater partners, so it should be easy to find a participating theater near you, and it accepts a variety of payment options, including credit cards, PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, and others. While Atom doesn’t offer any sort of VIP benefits themselves (like Fandango does), you can connect any existing theater-specific loyalty programs you have to the app—a nice bonus that further streamlines your moviegoing experience.
Atom’s digital tickets are QR codes and can be accessed two ways: within the app on the Profile tab or via text message. And, if you bought a bunch of tickets for you and your friends, Atom lets you share individual tickets with them through the app. This is great if you’re meeting friends at the theater but don’t want them waiting on you to get in. You can cancel a ticket purchase up to 30 minutes before your show starts, which is a nice option to have in case plans fall through.
Overall, Atom is a solid app. It offers all the features you’d expect an app like this to have, and makes them easy to access through its beautiful interface. The app is great for casual moviegoers and enthusiasts alike.
Best for Loyalty Rewards Programs: Fandango
Fandango (Free) works much the same as Atom in that you can easily view movies that are out in theaters, and look at local theaters to see when their showtimes are, all on the app’s Spotlight homepage. The navigation bar at the bottom has other tabs you can look at as well: movies, theaters, trailers, and your account. The Movies page lets you peruse movie options according to when they are out with categories like “In Theaters,” “This Weekend,” and “Coming Soon.”
From the Theaters page, you can enter any zip code and view nearby theaters. If you frequent a specific theater, you can even set it as your favorite, making future searches one step easier. Don’t have a particular movie in mind? No worries. Watch trailers until your heart’s content on the Trailers page or on any individual movie’s page (where you can also see related videos and cast info).
By far, the biggest advantage Fandango has over Atom is that not only does it let you connect your existing theater loyalty programs to the app, but it also offers its own reward for loyal VIP users. You earn 125 points for each movie ticket you purchase, and when you get 500, that converts into a $5 reward you can use towards a future ticket. Fandango lets you cancel ticket purchases up until the showing, whereas Atom gives you a 30-minutes prior cutoff.
You can pay for tickets in a variety of ways, including credit cards and Venmo. Your purchased tickets are available to see within the app under the Account tab. Sharing ticket information is Fandango’s only substantial weakness. Where Atom lets you share tickets with other Atom users within the app, Fandango doesn’t have that feature. It only lets you send an email alerting whoever you wish that you bought tickets, but it doesn’t share the QR code or anything helpful. Multiple tickets are bundled under a single QR code, so everyone will have to go in together.
Otherwise, Fandango is a terrific app, especially if the main thing you care about is loyalty rewards. The app is easy to use (though it lags and has minor glitches on occasion) and makes it easy to watch trailers, find theaters, and buy movie tickets wherever you are.