Well thank god: someone’s finally got it together to create an English-language cinema booking site.
While Chinese-language online booking systems have proliferated recently (you can even buy cinema tickets now via the Baidu Maps function on an iPhone), they’re a real pain to use for those that cannot read Chinese.
247cinema, which started up in October of last year, boasts an all-English interface and accepts payments by major credit cards, PayPal, and UnionPay.
Bookings can be made for over 50 cinemas in Beijing, including the Jackie Chan International, Jinyi, Broadway, Poly International, Huayi Brothers and Bona cinema chains.
Registration is easy and the site is simple and straightforward, and even lets you choose your seats for the showing.
But even if you have no intention of booking your tickets online, the site is a boon for movie lovers because it lists the language that every film is shown in.
No such comprehensive list is currently compiled anywhere in English, and knowing this is of critical importance as many cinemas show two versions of the same foreign film: one dubbed into Chinese and one in the original language.
The site unfortunately does not list the subtitles that are featured on each film. All films shown in Beijing are subtitled in Chinese; some Chinese films, particularly those from Hong Kong, often have English as well, allowing non-Chinese speakers to enjoy them.
Not all Beijing movie theaters are in 247cinema’s system yet — prominent among the missing are the Wanda, UME and Megabox chains — but organizers are adding new ones all the time (they expect to get UME up in a few weeks).
Some of the Beijing cinemas already on the site include Imax Joy City Chaoyang; Purple Light Movieland in Chaoyangmen; Huayi Brothers Cinema in Wangjing; Chaoyang Cinemas on the East Third Ring; the Bona Cinema in U-Town; and the OSGH Cinema in Phoenix Town.
Bookings can be made for the current day and the next day or two, depending on the cinema.
Once you purchase your ticket online, a code is sent to your phone and email. Most cinemas in the network have a ticket-printing machine on site. Type the code into the machine and your tickets will be printed.
In the event the cinema where you made the booking does not have a ticket-printing machine, the system informs you of this via email and text.
There are some limitations on the site. For instance, there is no ability to search films by cinema: If you want to see what’s playing at your local cineplex, you’re out of luck — cinemas are listed, but the site does not list the films currently showing there. Operators of the site say a version 2.0 will be out soon that will address this problem.
Now if we could just convince Taobao, Didi Dache and JD.com to come up with English interfaces …
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on May 28, 2014.