Developer: Boctor Design
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

In case you clicked through hoping to see a new controversial mod for GTA4, you’re out of luck. Hot Popcorn is a movie listings app for the iPhone / iPod Touch, but it has much more inside its glittery UI than seen at first blush.

Hot Popcorn does its centerpiece feature very well. On the Movies tab, you can sort films that are out in the theater by current box office revenue, alphabetically, opening soon, and upcoming. When you’ve chosen your filter, the list of movies displays as you’d expect, with poster art and a quick summary of information you need at your fingertips: plot summary, Rotten Tomatoes rating, release date, running time, and MPAA rating. See a film you’re interested in? Select it with a tap to see the full detail, which includes a larger movie poster, star reviews, Rotten Tomatoes rating, runtime, genre, actor list, Rotten Tomato critical consensus, and synopsis. From these detailed pages you can click through to Amazon, which opens right inside the app, or even purchase movie tickets inside the software. Reviews from around the web, as well as Rotten Tomatoes critiques, are one click away as well.

The DVD tab offers the same kind of interface for browsing Top Rentals, Current Releases, New and Upcoming DVD releases. Keeping the navigation and detail pages the same as the Movies section provides seamless integration and familiarity across the application (although “Buy Tickets” doesn’t make much sense for DVD releases).

The Search tab, as you’d imagine, allows you to quickly search for a theater or DVD title. If you simply want to see what trailers are out there at the moment, the Trailers tab allows you to scroll through a list of previews, although it’s hard to determine exactly what order the app is trying to display them. The Theaters tab displays the current movie times in your area.

Aside from a well-designed UI, two things struck me about Hot Popcorn that elevate it above current free offerings in the iTunes Store (some of which are nearly as capable as this one). Firstly, when I click on the Theaters tab, Hot Popcorn instantly displays the closest theater showtimes in my area without me having to enter a zip code or manually scan for my coordinates. Secondly, the feature that makes this app worth its $1.99 asking price is the ability to purchase tickets right within the application without having to go to Safari. In fact, all links within the software stay inside the software, a welcome change to the tiresome click-link-exit-app-open-safari-close-safari-reopen-app task that I seem to be doing more often than not in other applications.

One of things I don’t understand, however, is Hot Popcorn’s need to display an ad for a movie when you first open the app. If I’m paying a premium for the software itself, why should I be subject to ads? Here’s hoping they either remove the ad (which displays for a quick second at the beginning and then disappears), or just move to a free ad-supported version. My second gripe is that Boctor Design is only using movietickets.com to enable purchases, which may be fine for a lot of theaters, but the two largest cinemas in my area are Regal, and thus only sell their tickets through Fandango. I’m not sure what kind of licensing issues they’d have to deal with, but getting Fandango on board seems like a priority.

Even though other movie listing apps in the store offer similar functionality, paying $1.99 seems like a cheap commodity for the ability to purchase tickets and visit reviews and more without exiting the software (as long as your theaters are supported). If Boctor Design makes just a few tweaks to the existing code-base, we think this could turn into a perfect 5-star offering.

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