Star Wars hype starts ahead of December opening

UK cinema chain reports record advance bookings for “The Force Awakens”

Watch the official trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released in cinemas this December. Video: Lucasfilm Ltd.

 

Fans of Walt Disney’s upcoming “Star Wars” swamped websites in the US and UK as they try to reserve seats to a movie still two months away from opening. The US ticketing sites Fandango and MovieTickets.com struggled to keep up with demand, as Disney’s ESPN network kicked off early sales with a new trailer for the film during a “Monday Night Football” telecast.

Attempts on Fandango to buy tickets to the movie, which opens on December 18th, during the first few hours of availability produced the notice “Error 500: Technical Difficulties.”

Cinema chains are being tested globally by demand for the seventh installment in the saga, projected to be one of the top- grossing pictures of the year, if not all time.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the first in the series from Disney, which acquired franchise-owner Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4 billion in 2012. Earlier on Monday, Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group said online ticket sales for “Star Wars” set a record for the UK chain and caused booking delays at its website.

The UK’s Vue Entertainment also had record advance ticket sales purchases, selling 10,000 in the first 90 minutes, according to an e-mailed statement. Customers were able to purchase throughout the day with only a few delays. “We’ve seen massive traffic to our website today as guests book ahead” for “Star Wars” and the new James Bond film “Spectre,” Simon Soffe, an Odeon and UCI spokesman, said Monday in an e-mail.

The chain is owned by Guy Hands’s Terra Firma Capital Partners, while Vue’s parent is Omers Private Equity.

Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne said in June that the movie could be the third highest-grossing film in history. He estimated “The Force Awakens” will take in $1.95 billion in ticket sales worldwide. That would place it behind “Avatar” at $2.8 billion and “Titanic” at $2.2 billion, according to data from Boxofficemojo.com.

Selling tickets two months before a film’s debut is a strategy Hollywood has occasionally deployed in the past for its most highly-anticipated releases. “The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, has revealed itself in two earlier trailers to be very much an homage to the 1977 original, even to the point of including many from the cast. Disney has been seeding the market for a new generation of fans, showing “Star Wars Rebels, ” a cartoon on its Disney XD network, and releasing toys globally last month in a promotion it dubbed “Force Friday.”

Bloomberg

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