Even before the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened last weekend, it was already a box-office leader for online movie ticket vendor Fandango. However, even for highly-anticipated movies, most tickets are still sold the old-fashioned way, at the box office.
Price seems like an obvious barrier to wider adoption. Unlike buying a book from Amazon, buying a movie ticket online means the customer pays an extra surcharge.
An executive from a major theater chain disputes that customers prefer to avoid fees.
“Nothing in our testing or our research suggests that it is a barrier,” says Brent Cooke, vice president for guest relations at AMC Theatres. Financial analysts disagree.
“You’re only going to pay that surcharge if you’re not going to get in otherwise,” says Sucharita Mulparu, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Otherwise, why bother?”
While some movies with a lot of buzz do sell out, the typical movie-theater experience is more casual.
“People will walk up to a box office and say, ‘What do you want to see?'” says Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with Altimeter Group.
Lieb points out another barrier to selling more tickets online: Lots of movie goers are teenagers. “And they don’t have credit cards,” she says.
Eventually, the industry will do what it takes to move all sales online, predicts Michael Pachter, an analyst with Forrester Research.
The customer data, he says, is too valuable to pass up.
“Do you think if we called up Disney, they could tell me whether you’ve seen Iron Man 1, 2 or 3 in the theater?” he says. “They have no idea.”
If ticket sales were digital, they would have that information.
“That would give them the opportunity to sell you Iron Man on DVD, or sell you Iron Man merchandise for Halloween, or whatever,” he says. “I think that’s a bigger opportunity than just getting the ticket sale.”
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