Can You Buy Movie Tickets in Advance? How Far?

There are a good majority of moviegoers who have very selective tastes when it comes to where their seat is located.

For these picky theater enthusiasts, getting an early ticket for a movie with a lot of interest is essential. Failure to do so can result in nosebleed seats well in the back or one-dimensional sound from having to sit to the far right of the film.

Thankfully for the finicky film buffs reading, there are a number of different options to make sure you get your favorite seat well before the trailers begin to roll.

Like most things in life, doing the legwork ahead of time will save you quite a bit of trouble. This doesn’t mean you start booking a seat for Avatar 2 six months before it opens.

Typically speaking, most movie theatres will allow you to reserve a seat anywhere from 24 hours to ten days out, though this varies with each theater franchise.

How To Buy Tickets In Advance

The first thing we should get out of the way is that there are a number of ways to purchase tickets ahead of time so even if one method doesn’t work for your local Regal cinema, another might.

Theaters are all a bit different in how they operate on a local level. While one may not allow you to purchase tickets in advance over the phone, you may be more than capable of purchasing tickets online with minimal issues.

Purchasing Tickets At The Theater

For those of us who appreciate the added value of a face-to-face interaction, going to your local theater in person might be ideal for you.

The benefits of this option are pretty substantial, the most important being that employees are less likely to brush you off when you are standing right in front of them. As someone who has worked in countless retail businesses, the number one way to solve a problem you don’t know the answer to is, “We actually don’t offer that here, sorry.”

The person-to-person interaction lessens the likelihood of this scenario and also gives you access to other employees who may be more equipped to deal with your request. You also get the added benefit of more attentive service, which is always preferred.

In other cases, a busy theater might make it so your call never gets answered, or in the case of some local theaters – you won’t get the option to reserve a ticket via their website.

When you do talk to a theater employee, make sure you specify every important piece of information regarding which screening you are going to attend. Let them know not only the film but the showing time and the date you plan to visit the theater. This way when you show up there are no chances of previous miscommunication stopping you from enjoying a movie you have been planning to see for up to a week or more.

For the older souls reading, you can also pay with cash when you are in person. So whether you have a personal grudge against debit cards or you are terrified of the government monitoring your every step – you have alternative options. This doesn’t mean that you can’t pay with a debit or credit card at your local theater, but it is the only way you are going to be able to buy tickets in your nation’s currency of choice.

Some folks recommend going in early to make sure you get good seating, but this is a double-edged sword.

One, because most theaters are dreadfully boring outside of a claw machine that will steal every quarter you’ve ever earned. Secondly, most people reserve seating online or by phone so regardless of if you got there an hour early a soccer mom with her two kids might throw you to the front seats, regardless. If the movie you are watching doesn’t have a lot of hype around it then you will probably be fine, but if it’s the seventh installment of the Avengers you might be out of luck.

Purchasing Tickets Over The Phone

If I’m being completely sincere this is probably my least preferred method of scheduling tickets, though it does offer its own personal list of benefits.

While not every theater offers a website to purchase tickets in advance, we have yet to discover a theater that doesn’t at least offer a phone number. If you do find a theater that has no listed number, that is not a movie theater, you are at the beginning of a horror film.

Typically speaking, however, you can use the present-day phonebook (AKA a google search) to find the number of all theaters in your local area. I’d really recommend doing this during a time when you expect the theater to not be busy so the employee has more opportunity and motivation to help see your problem through. Most of these employees make eight dollars on the hour to get yelled at by the public and sweep up sticky floors, so it can prove useful to catch them in a more relaxed hour of the day.

As with all methods you will want to make sure you listed the time, date, and film you are planning to see. The more publicity a film has, the further back you will be able to reserve a ticket. If they do tell you it is impossible to schedule a ticket in advance, double-check over the internet or in person if you find that hard to believe, you can never be too sure. The most likely result will be that you have to reserve your seat with a credit or debit card over the phone, so it will prove beneficial to get one ready ahead of time.

Purchasing Tickets Via The Internet

There are few things better than the simplicity of the digital age. Most of us who have access to franchise theaters like Regal, AMC, or Cinemark will never have to worry about going to a theater in person or over the phone because of the ease of use with their websites. If the website doesn’t offer tickets don’t be afraid to look at movie-ticket sites like Fandango which may offer alternative options that could also prove cheaper!

It’s fairly simple to purchase tickets, find your local theater via state and city or zip code then enter the date, time, and movie you wish to see. If it’s available, most sites will offer you a top-down view of seating and allow you to pick a prime seat (typically in the middle) of your choosing. Like the phone, this is almost always going to have to be reserved with a credit card, debit card, or virtual payment option like PayPal before you have a confirmation. Make sure you keep a printout of the email or be able to show the email confirmation at your local theater so you can enter the movie.

While this is likely the least painless and most efficient option, it will not always be available to you for lesser-known theater brands or local theaters. There is a beautiful old theater that has been around for decades near my home, but due to its vintage nature, you can’t purchase tickets online. If this theater sounds familiar to one you would like to go to, a similar issue may arise making this option impossible.

The Evolution of Online Ticket Booking

While we’ve discussed traditional ways to book tickets – at the theater, over the phone, and via the Internet – it’s interesting to take a look at how technology has revolutionized this process. Mobile apps for cinemas and third-party ticket sellers like Fandango and BookMyShow have made the booking process a breeze. These apps not only let you book tickets in advance but also let you choose your seats, and in many cases, order your concessions ahead of time.

Some apps even offer virtual reality previews of the theater seating, allowing you to get a 360-degree view of what your movie experience might look like from different seats. The future is here and it’s making our movie-going experience more convenient and personalized than ever before!

Final Thoughts

Most theaters will give you the option to purchase tickets a week or two in advance.

If you are buying tickets for a highly anticipated film (Marvel, the 12th Harry Potter film, etc.) then you can reserve dates much further out.

The advantage of reserving tickets ahead of time is obvious, you get prime seating, you don’t have to wait in extensive lines and you can awkwardly shoo squatters out of your spot. So don’t be the guy who is forced to sit next to the family with three sensitive babies, reserve your spot!


Can I change my seat after purchasing a ticket?

Most theaters allow you to change your seat after purchasing a ticket. However, this depends on the theater’s policy and the availability of seats. It’s best to confirm this with the specific theater.

What is the best seat in a movie theater?

While personal preference plays a big role, the general consensus among film buffs is that the best seat is in the middle, about two-thirds back from the screen. This allows for a balance between visual and audio experience.

What happens if someone is sitting in my reserved seat?

If you find someone sitting in your reserved seat, you can politely ask them to move. If the person refuses, seek the help of a theater employee. They are there to ensure you have a pleasant movie-going experience.

Can I get a refund if I miss the movie?

This varies by theater. Some might offer refunds or exchanges if you’re unable to make it to the show, while others have a strict no-refund policy. Always check the refund policy of the specific theater or ticket selling platform.

How far in advance can I book movie tickets?

The period can range from 24 hours to a few weeks, depending on the theater and the movie. For blockbuster releases, some theaters may start bookings well in advance.