March 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

Fandango makes one giant leap for moviegoers: paperless mobile tickets

Working with a theater chain that has installed optical instead of laser scanners, Fandango is now issuing tickets via two-dimensional bar codes that can be displayed on the screen of a web-enabled mobile phone.

When it comes to mobile ticketing, movie ticket seller giant Fandango is closing the loop: no more paper.

Typically, consumers who buy movie tickets at Fandango’s e-commerce or m-commerce sites or mobile apps must either print them and bring the page to the theater or swipe a credit card as a form of identification at a theater kiosk to print the tickets. But now Fandango is taking a big leap forward in ticketing by enabling consumers in select markets to present their web-enabled mobile phone at the theater and get scanned in via a bar code displayed on the screen.

The program is rolling out to more than 100 screens-Fandango is partnered with 16,000-in the Reading Cinemas chain. This includes theaters in: Bakersfield, CA; Dallas; Hawaii; Houston; New Jersey; New York; San Diego; and Sonoma County, CA.

“This is more than a test,” says a Fandango spokesman. “It’s a rollout, and we’re gung ho about it.”

The obstacle to paperless ticketing has always been the laser scanners in use at most movie theaters. A laser scanner cannot read a bar code on a phone because the screen reflects the laser. Reading Cinemas is at the forefront of scanning technology, having implemented optical scanners. Optical scanners emit no light and thus can read bar codes on mobile phone screens.

To redeem tickets, consumers in the select markets can choose mobile tickets as an option during checkout. Fandango sends the consumer a text message that contains a hyperlink to a mobile web page containing the two-dimensional bar code. (2D bar codes store data horizontally as well as vertically and can contain much more information than a conventional horizontal 1-D bar code.) The ticket-taker at the theater scans the bar code and patrons are allowed in.

Fandango expects the program to expand as more theater chains implement optical scanners. It says scanners are replaced every few years, and turnover will boost the paperless mobile tickets program as many theaters move to optical.

This news comes on the heels of Target Corp. redeeming mobile coupons and gift cards with 2-D bar codes at the point of sale. Target says it has installed optical scanners at every one of its 1,740 stores throughout the United States and thus can now read bar codes on phone screens.

Target is No. 20 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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