After years of attending movie sneak previews, we’ve learned a lesson or two. While you might save money by catching a FREE screening, you should have plenty of patience, be flexible and not mind large crowds. For the most part, screenings are very orderly, with no shoving or pushing. (If so, security is usually standing guard to address any such issues.) But if you’re new to the world of sneak previews or ever wondered why you had a pass in hand, but still didn’t get in the doors, here’s the inside scoop, as well as some helpful tips:
You need passes — Movie previews are designed to create buzz about a particular film, so the general public will get exicted and want to buy tickets. Movie studios hire specialized promotional firms, whose job it is to get people talking about a movie. And one of the easiest methods is a sneak preview. These are special showings before a film is officially released. Typically, one screen in a multi-plex theater is reserved for the preview. (However, studios may offer multiple preview screenings for a film, depending on their marketing plan.) Once a date and time for the preview is set, passes are distributed to the general public. There are three methods by which you can get a pass via MHOTC.
- Instant print*. In Denver, The Denver Post, Westword and MHOTC publish URLs or promo codes for specific film screenings. Each publication receives different codes or links. You simply go to a specified website, such as GoFoBo, and, if asked, type in a code. Some sites do not require a code. In either case, you simply download and print up to two passes — each good for one admission. These passes are limited in number and often go very quickly. When an allocation is depleted, the system won’t allow any more to be printed. This is the main reason why MHOTC only sends the link or code to our e-newsletter subscribers exclusively. We try to ensure you get first shot.
- Enter to win*. Movie studios give you several days on a specific web page to enter your e-mail address into a lottery system. Then, at the end of the entry period, randomly selected “winners” receive an e-mail with a unique link to download and print the preview pass.
- Text to win*. Similar to enter to win, text a key word and your zip code to a specific number. Then, at the end of the entry period, randomly selected “winners” receive a text with a unique link to download the preview pass. In a few cases, text to win drawings offer “guaranteed” seats (no waiting in line, show up and you’re in), but, if that’s the case, it will be noted in the post.
*Passes are barcoded for one-time use, so don’t think about printing (or copying) more passes for family or friends. Nor should you forward your text to them. If you do, they will be denied entrance at the door because, once the barcode has been scanned, it will no longer be valid for any attempts thereafter.
Arrive early — All sneak previews are overbooked to ensure a full house, so you must arrive early and prepared to wait in line. Seating is not guaranteed, just because you have a pass in hand. (By the way, movie studios also reserve seats for the press and VIPs. That’s why you see all of those seats with tape across them at every screening.)
Just how early you need to show up is the million dollar question. Your arrival time depends on many factors, largely the popularity of the film and size of the theater. On average, arriving about an hour or so before showtime should be sufficient. However, if you really want to cherry pick your seats, you probably need to arrive about two hours in advance. (If you arrive late, there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting in the neck-stretching front row.)
We notice the summer blockbusters are the most difficult to gain entrance, so plan accordingly because they are very, very popular. If you get antsy waiting in line, we suggest bringing a book, crossword puzzle or periodical to pass the time. (Of course, everyone is scrolling, texting or calling on their smartphone anyway.) Note: Large crowds often means parking will be difficult, so allow for an additional 10 to 15 minutes to find a spot.
Be prepared for a security check — With the rampant piracy of movies and music on the Internet, many movie studios now require attendees to go through a security check prior to entering the theater. While most sneak previews do not require a security check, more and more screenings are doing so — especially for big-budget flicks.
The screening usually includes a bag check and quick wave from a metal detector wand. Plus, some screenings do not allow cell phones in the theater, so you may be required to check it at the door (just like a coat check.) Be warned, if you’re seen using your cell phone during the movie, you will be asked to leave the theater immediately. Trust us, we’ve seen it happen more than once. It’s embarrassing for you and frustrating for everyone else. Our best advice is to just leave your cell phone in the car.
Be ready for large crowds — Of course, a FREE movie screening attracts lots and lots (and lots) of people. Just about every single screening is filled to capacity, so know that you may not get it in every time. Sometimes (not every time), if you don’t get in, the movie studio will offer you passes to a future preview, as a courtesy. You’ll be asked to self-address an envelope (which they provide) by one of the members of the on-site management team from the movie promo company. Then, in a week or two, you’ll receive a pass in the mail. (Unfortunately, it’s kind of grab bag, so the film may not be to your liking.)
Because people are often waiting in line for more than an hour, they do not take kindly to people who butt in line. We suggest having your entire party ready and waiting in line together. Remember, friends and family who butt in line at the last-minute means people who have been waiting, too, at the end of the line won’t get in. It can get quite testy, so be courteous and thoughtful of others.
Finally, once you’re seated in the theater, guard your seats like their gold. If you need to go to the bathroom or decide to grab some popcorn, make sure someone is watching your seat. Otherwise, more than likely, you’ll return to a stranger in sitting in your seat. While we’ve never seen a fight break out, it can get very contentious.