I’ve posted a few advanced screenings recently, and it’s something I’d like to post more of in the future. Since this is a new experience for most people, I’d like to share some tips and info about advanced screenings so my readers are well prepared to take advantage of these great opportunities.
I first found out about advanced screenings in high school. It was a great way for us to go see new movies, for free, before the general public (and there was much else to do in the suburbs, so this was very exciting). I’ve attended free screenings in three different cities, so I have a pretty good understanding of how they work.
How do I get passes?
This part is essential because, without the passes, you’re obviously can’t get into the screening. The passes are free, so the trick is finding out about the screenings.
This is the first way I ever got passes. A lot of stations give out the passes over the air to the ##th caller. Those are obviously difficult to get. There is an easier way.
On most radio stations’ websites, there will be a member’s section. If you sign up to that section you’ll probably get a newsletter and some other benefits. Usually one of those benefits is the advanced screening passes.
How they’re doled out will depend on the radio station. I’ve seen sites that require you to earn points to redeem for the passes (or CDs, DVDs, and other promotional items), some you have to enter a contest, and others you just request the passes.
Check out the radio stations’ websites and see what works for you.
Sometimes your local newspaper will offer up free passes. Here in Chicago, The Red Eye will advertise free passes on occasion. They usually require sending in an email. Check your newspapers to see if they have anything similar.
Magazines will also advertise screenings, which you can usually sign up for online. I’ve seen screenings in Entertainment Weekly, Giant, and Seventeen. Usually they provide a URL to sign up or print a pass. You can Check EW’s website regularly for new screenings.
Besides checking EW’s site, there are some other websites that can alert you of free screenings. Wild About Movies is one of them. They have a newsletter you can subscribe to for upcoming screenings.
Fox Searchlight often does screenings before new releases, so if they have a movie you’re interested in, make sure to check for free screening dates.
How Early Should I Get There?
All of these screenings are done on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want to get in and want a good seat, you need to arrive early. The general rule I follow is to get there an hour and a half before the screening time.
This can be adjusted, depending on the popularity of the movie and the location of the theater. A screening in downtown Chicago obviously requires me to get there earlier than one in Evanston would. For a big blockbuster movie, I’d recommend being there at least 2 hours early.
Once the theater is filled, you’ll be turned away. Occasionally the studio or the theater will give out passes to another screening, but that doesn’t always happen.
Read about what happened when I was turned away from a free screening.
What Happens When I Arrive?
This depends on the theater. You may go straight in, or you may be stuck waiting in a line. Occasionally screenings will have other promotions where the studio or a radio station will do giveaways or have trivia contests before the screening.
Most of the time you’ll just be stuck waiting, so bring a book or a deck of cards to keep yourself amused.
Usually, your bags will be searched and you could also be “wanded” before you enter the theater. This is mainly to look for cameras or camcorders, which will not be allowed in the theater, so don’t even bother to bring them with you. You will be required to turn your cell phone off while in the theater.
Once you’re in, just sit back, relax, and enjoy your free film.