I miss Vindigo. The service that ran this mobile application shut down last September. It was the reason that I had a Palm Treo, and it was totally worth the subscription price. It worked like this: You selected your city (mine’s New York). Then you selected the options you want for a number of different categories – Restaurants, Museums, Music, Shopping, Services… The one I used most was Movies. 

Under Movies, you could see everything that was playing that week, read reviews, and check local theaters and showtimes. Ok, there are lots of sites and services that let you do those things on a mobile phone or smartphone now. Here’s the part I really miss – I could easily save any of the movies to “My List” and then, when I wanted to go see something, instead of having to search for it, or sort through everything currently playing in theaters, I just looked at My List and asked myself “What do I feel like seeing today?”

When I watched a movie, I would deselect it. If I didn’t get around to seeing it and it left theaters, it would automatically drop off the list. Very convenient. Each week, I’d sync my Palm to the computer (or sync it wirelessly, once I had the Treo) and the showtimes would update, and new listings would be added.

Why do all the current movie showtime services out there assume that I know exactly what I want to see and am willing to search for it every time?  Is it because most theaters in the US are playing the same half dozen movies on every screen? Is this problem I’m having unique to cinephiles in NYC?

I’ve spent several hours this evening looking for a mobile app – or even a mobile-enabled website – that will let me do this. None of the apps I found let me save movies. Of the sites I’ve looked at that have showtimes, a couple of them let you save movies to a list, but they have a lot of problems. Here are the two I tried.

Movieweb

On the plus side

  • They have a very handy list of New Releases which you can view by week or month, going backwards or forwards from the current date. It even includes a lot of obscure movies, not just the mainstream ones.

On the downside

  • It’s an awkward, multistep process to add a movie to your list. You have to go to the movie detail page, find and then click the button that says “add to my list”, and then select which list you want to add it to.
  • The list doesn’t have any indication of the release dates or of whether movies are still in theaters, so there’s no distinction between current movies, upcoming movies, and movies whose runs are already over. You’d have to manually maintain that yourself.
  • There’s no mobile version of the site, so on my phone’s web browser I had to scroll through tons of navigation, and the thumbnail image that accompanies each movie on the list makes it impossible to see more than one item at a time – not a quality I’m looking for in a list.
  • The “showtimes and tickets” functionality of the site is not working. There’s a message when you go that page that says “This section is down for the moment being.” Aside from the fact that they made up a phrase, there’s no indication how long this condition may last. It simply states that they’re “upgrading the system for a more feature rich experience.”
  • It’s possible to make an RSS feed of the list, so I briefly toyed with the idea of making the list, subscribing to the RSS feed of the list, and then looking at that on my phone… and then I realized that this is so inconvenient, it’s not worth the trouble, especially when after choosing a movie from your list, you’d then have to go to a separate website to find out where and when it’s playing.

Yahoo! Movies

On the plus side:

  • I already had a Yahoo login, so it was easy to try it out without signing up for yet another service. 
  • The lists you create include a column for status, which let you know if each movie is currently in theaters. 
  • Clicking on the movie name takes you to a detail page which includes showtimes and, depending on the theater, the ability to buy tickets.

On the downside:

  • While big movies with a designed page, like Angels & Demons, have a button that says “Add to My Movies”, most of the movies don’t have any way to add them from the detail page. So, you can’t just add movies while browsing around, you have to go to the list page and search for the movie there. (Confusingly enough, they do have an “Add to queue” button, which takes you to Blockbuster, where you’re asked to create another account).
  • Whether you select one of the big movies from the detail page, or go to your list and search for a title, it’s still an awkward, multistep process, and you don’t end up on the list page when you’re done, so you have to find your way back if you want to actually see the list you’ve made.
  • Yahoo! Movies does have a mobile version, but it’s so stripped down, it doesn’t let you see “complicated” features like the list you painstakingly made on their website. So, you can look at the list on a computer but not, you know, when you’re outside, where the movie theaters are!

Is it too much to ask for a mobile service that lets me easily manage a list of movies I want to see that are playing in my city? If anyone knows of an app or mobile-friendly site where I can perform this simple task, please let me know!

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