As if any proof were needed that Google is intent on parachuting into new advertising opportunities, it’s just launched Google Films. It’s a new web search feature that enables users in the UK to search for local film showtimes, read critics’ reviews, and search for films by plot, genre and more.
It’s also added a new Google SMS feature that enables users to get film showtimes and cinema listings on their mobile phone or handheld device via text messaging – potentially eliminating the need for that sneaky flick through Time Out in a newsagent when you are out and about and decide a little silver screen action is in order.
By including the words "films" or "showtimes" in their web search query, users can see information about showtimes and film reviews displayed above the Google web search results. For example you can search for a list of films and showtimes near a UK location by typing "film E9" or "film Hackney" into Google.
I’ve tried it and it works, with the best feature being the ability to sort results by theatre distance, movie popularity, movie rating or simply by movie title.
In terms of coverage of the film reviews feature, the biggest difference between this service and Time Out’s film guide, for example, is just the same as the difference between reading Google News and buying The Guardian newspaper. Google News aggregates stories from hundreds of sources, and it’s up to the reader to decide which of them to read, and how much credibility to attach to the particular media outlet that wrote the story. If you choose to buy The Guardian, you have already decided that you wish The Guardian to be your ‘trusted’ source for news, even if you don’t necessarily trust all of its stories.
With Google Film you can indeed see scores of reviews for each movie, with sources of those reviews ranging from The New York Times to FilmBlather.com and everywhere in-between. Some will appreciate this variety, even though it means that one review that rates a film outstanding will appear alongside another that finds it appalling.
For example Entertainment Weekly says The Dukes of Hazzard is, "As a movie… more fun than it has any right to be." The BBC says the same film, "Seems to take pride in being as loud, obnoxious and moronic as humanly possible. With no discernably witty characters, lines or situations to speak of, this flat-footed remake is a real pain in the redneck." [Image: The Dukes of Hazzard, source: Warner Bros. I haven’t seen it but I’ll trust the BBC on this one.]
So others will continue to seek out the reviews in Time Out or wherever, because they have a level of trust in that publication’s voice, and would rather read one review they trust than 30 that they either do not trust, or have not yet established a level of trust in. Some people will still buy The Guardian rather than use an aggregator like Google News – and still others will do both.
Aside from the aggregated reviews though, Google Films will prove immensely popular for doing what Google does best: presenting search results just how you like them to be presented, and enabling you to slice and dice those search results in an intuitive and genuinely useful and speedy fashion.
To use Google Films go to Google and type something like "film: london" or "film: charlie and the chocolate factory london" into the search pane. For all the ins and outs of how the new movie and SMS services work, visit here or here, respectively.