I generally don't buy movie tickets from Fandango, since I try to avoid paying a service charge on top of the ticket price. The only exception is when Terry and I really want to see a particular film in Manhattan on a weekend. Theaters sell out so often there that buying your tickets in advance is the only sure way to get in to see the movie that you want at the theater that you want.

I do however use Fandango to look up showtimes and theater locations. When I was looking up some info today I also discovered that Fandango's site itself is a lot more fun than it used to be ("used to be" meaning prior to June 2003, when I last lived in Manhattan and used the site a lot).

There are now all kinds of games to play (trivia, bowling, mah jongg, sudoku, spider solitaire, and lots more), and you can make a paper-bag puppet avatar. If you check it out, click here to see mine (or search for "MrsThorsen" from the ratings page) and rate it. I'm not sure what happens when my bag gets points, but if it's like the other games if I get enough points I think I win free movie tickets. I played a few of the other games, but didn't score anywhere near high enough to be a weekly ticket winner. Nevertheless, I had some fun playing different games for about an hour. I hadn't planned on spending so long on the site, but the games were fun.

And I admit that I did check out the movie premier celebrity photos and read a few of their fluff articles. Their website designers have done a decent job at making the site "sticky", meaning it gives visitors a lot of different reasons to look around the site. So Fandango makes money now even from people like me who don't like to buy tickets through them, since they charge advertisers for everyone who visits the site to play games or look up info, etc. That's fine with me since I enjoy the content, and their ads aren't horribly distracting. But I use Firefox and so have a pop-up blocker, I can't vouch for the obtrusiveness of ads if you're using an old browser and are subjected to popups, I don't know if Fandango has them or not.

Bottom Line: Fandango still has an irksome service charge that prevents me from buying tickets through them unless there is a good chance that the particular show I want to see will be otherwise sold out. But I'm glad that their site now has fun games and activities in addition to their movie theater and showtime listings.