The feature uses Facebook’s “M” artificial-intelligence virtual assistant technology, which the company rolled out broadly this spring. The M assistants suggest different capabilities within Messenger discussions, including sending stickers, requesting or sending a payment, launching ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, starting a poll, making a plan, and sharing location.
Users skittish about their chats being overheard — or who just don’t want to be shown movie recommendations — can mute the suggestions from Fandango (and the others) by changing their settings in Messenger. In addition, Facebook lets users establish a fully encrypted “secret conversation” so that no one, including the social-media giant, can read the messages.
Fandango, which has 2.1 million “likes” on its Facebook Page, first launched a Messenger bot a year and a half ago. The NBCUniversal-owned movie-ticketing and media company then began selling tickets on the social network in September 2016.
Here’s how the M suggestions work for Fandango: When a person in a group or one-to-one conversation expresses interest in finding show times, information about movies or buying movie tickets, M will suggest they open the Fandango chat extension.
In the example provided by Fandango, one person says, “It’s mooovie night!! What do you want to see?” Her friend replies, “Let’s go see Thor!” which triggers the M assistant to pull up a prompt below the chat window that says “Buy Tickets for Thor: Ragnarok.”
Using the Fandango chat extension, users can find new movies, watch trailers, find showtimes for nearby theaters, and purchase tickets from directly inside Messenger. In addition, users can use it to share information about a movie or theater within a conversation.
“Moviegoing is inherently social, and we’ve been working with Facebook for several years on social innovations around movie discovery, planning and ticket buying,” Fandango president Paul Yanover said in a statement. “This is another great example of how we’re connecting fans with movies in the natural social environments where they are already discussing movies.”