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Fandango’s ticket buying bot for Messenger will either be very useful or annoying at best

The potential for its success is in group chats

Thor Ragnarok Marvel

If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you have a group chat going on Facebook Messenger at all times. And, if you’re like me, you probably talk about going to watch movies with your friends in that group chat — a lot.

Movie ticket e-retailer Fandango is releasing a new Facebook chatbot suggestion for Messenger that may actually be pretty useful, unlike most other bots, when it comes to organizing movie hangs. Here’s how it works: if you decide to integrate the new “M” suggestion into your Facebook chat, when you mention a movie that’s coming out or playing in theaters, M will pop up asking if you want to buy tickets to said movie. If you do, clicking on the link will prompt an in-window ticket e-retailer, allowing you to buy tickets directly from that window.

Let’s not get this twisted: it’s a way for Fandango to make money. You’re buying tickets through Fandango instead of another website or chain. Thinking about how often my friends and I have spent trying to co-ordinate movie dates, though, makes me hopeful that this can help make the transition easier.

Fandango movie bot
I am also down for Thor: Ragnarok, to be honest.
An iPhone showing Thor: Ragnarok tickets being purchased through Fandango’s movie bot.
Chris Hemsworth, the star of Thor: Ragnarok, probably does not buy his own movie tickets and is probably not using M. But his assistant might!

“You can also share information about a movie or theater within a one-on-one or group Messenger conversation,” a press release from Fandango reads.

If that runs smoothly, it means that I’ll be able to send the exact theater and movie details to multiple friends at once in a group setting without worrying that everyone received an individual message. The potential for M to be an actual useful tool for buying movie tickets — something I spend quite a bit of time doing already — is relieving, but like all AI integration, there is pause for concern.

The biggest issue with AI, even machine learning bots like M, is that it can get annoying, fast. Think of this scenario: you’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi with friends and want to talk about it. Every time you mention the movie, will the prompt be activated? It can get easily frustrating to have to deal with a bot that doesn’t understand the context of a conversation.

Fandango has confirmed that the chatbot can be muted and the settings can be played around with if this arises, but that doesn’t solve every issue. If it’s muted, then it won’t register the next conversation you have where you do want to go watch a movie with friends and could use the prompt.

“As with all M suggestions, the new features are completely automated and powered by machine learning,” the press release reads. “The more you use M suggestions, the more it can help. People always have the option to ignore or dismiss a suggestion if it’s not helpful, and if you don’t want M’s assistance at all, you can easily mute it in M settings.”

M’s new suggestion setting will be available to integrate into Messenger starting today in the United States.