Showtimes To Go: How the mobile web may be changing how we go to the movies

While Smartphone owners may use email, calendar and contacts most often, the people I know can’t live without at least one other feature of the mobile web. Some love their GPS, others like a constant feed of sports scores, others want to be able to see their Facebook friends’ status updates at all times. My personal favorite convenience is being able to look up movies and showtimes when I’m away from my computer.

Now that I have a Smartphone, I tend use both it and my PC to make movie plans. So I wondered if other Smartphone owners are doing the same thing, and if iPhone owners were behaving any differently. Is mobile information changing how we’re using the internet on our computers to plan a night at the movies?

To answer these questions, I took a look at some of the survey and clickstream data from Compete’s recent Smartphone Intelligence study.

As we can see from the chart, not all device owners behave the same way. About 2.5 times more iPhone owners said they looked up movies and showtimes on their phone at least three times in a month.

But what about online behavior? On average, iPhone and other Smartphone owners both look up movies and showtimes on their computer about 3.8 times a month. iPhone users, however, spend about 20% less time doing this on their computers.

So, iPhone users are looking up movies and showtimes more often on their phones. They’re performing the same task on their computers just as frequently as Smartphone owners, but not spending as much time on it. Why could this be?

The behavior of the iPhone users may be rooted in demographics and functionality. The demographic part of the explanation is that iPhone owners who responded to our survey were slightly younger than the other Smartphone owners. Thirty percent of iPhone respondents were under 34, compared to 22% of Smartphone respondents. Most theatrical audiences also tend to skew younger.

The other factor influencing behavior of these groups on the mobile and fixed internet may be the availability of applications and the relative ease of the mobile web browsing experience. The new Smartphone I recently bought has a lot of great features, but movie and showtime application choices are limited. A quick check of the iTunes Application Store yielded five choices, four of them free. Making the mobile web easier to navigate has been a key feature of the new Smartphones — like the G1, the Storm and the Bold — but many devices are behind the iPhone in this regard.

So what does all of this mean? Clearly, looking up movies and showtimes on the personal computer isn’t disappearing anytime soon, but it is possible that the availability of better mobile options will lead people to use that channel more often, creating new possibilities in location-based and mobile advertising.

See you at the movies.

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