After the sour taste of the Star Wars prequels, the Force is back and ready to break box office records. Days ago, Lucasfilm confirmed Star Wars 7 pre-order ticket sales would hit on Monday, October 19th ahead of the final Episode 7 trailer set to debut during Monday Night Football. Some fans and industry insiders wondered whether moviegoers would actually pony-up for The Force Awakens months ahead of release but within one hour of pre-order sales going live at online ticket sellers - it's safe to say that Star Wars 7 is prepped to be one of, possibly the, biggest openings in Hollywood history.
The pre-sale hype crashed numerous online box office sites - including Fandango and MovieTickets.com, in addition to the official IMAX page and other Star Wars-related resources. As the minutes ticked-on Star Wars fans struggled to order through online store pages - only to discover that their theater of choice had already sold out. The Force was strong with certain diligent ticket pre-orderers but that didn't stop the Dark Side from taking advantage of the hype - as opportunistic buyers have already taken to eBay, scalping desperate fans for opening weekend theater passes.
As with any major online event sale, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to hear that a few savvy Internet users have found a way to exploit Star Wars hype. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that Star Wars lovers have been asked to pay a premium from third-party sellers in the last two months - as Force Friday introduced an enormous supply of high-demand collectibles that, in spite of the massive roll out, were still difficult for the average buyer to acquire. In particular Sphero's app-controlled BB-8 droid was already selling for double its retail value at multiple eBay storefronts - and now, sixty days ahead of release, online auctioneers are already trying to push 1,000% (plus) markups on Star Wars 7 theater tickets.
Check out two of the most egregious listings by clicking on the images below:
No doubt, these prices are at the extreme end of the spectrum - and the sellers are unlikely to get full price for these passes; yet, the listings are symptomatic of a scalping culture that will affect Star Wars fans in the coming days. Few resellers are going to attempt such lofty markups but, without question, once today's pre-order dust settles, eBay and similar online sellers will be filled with Star Wars 7 tickets offered at premium prices - especially in densely populated markets (such as New York and Los Angeles).
It's an unfortunate problem but one that shouldn't come as a complete shock to fans who regularly attend high demand ticketed events: concerts, playoff sports, and opening weekend Broadway productions. Every single fan will get a chance to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters but, sadly, all of them will not have the ability to see the franchise revival in a theater during opening weekend.
Thanks to decline in theater attendance, and the ease of online ordering, sold-out movie showings aren't as common as they were one decade ago - since moviegoers can view ticket availability in real time (on top of becoming more choosey about which movies they'll even invest to see in theaters). In fact, The Dark Knight may have been the last time that many geeks were forced to pay outrageous scalping prices - just to get in a theater on opening weekend. In the last few years, select films (example: The Avengers) have raised enough pre-order buzz to encourage scalping; though, upcharges were comparatively low.
It's an unfortunate situation - since it's impossible to prevent non-fans from purchasing and scalping tickets. That said, there's no question that Lucasfilm and theater chains could have made the buying process smoother - so that well-intentioned buyers could have been more informed going into the pre-order process. In addition to the inconvenience of ticket retail sites caving under a tidal wave of network traffic, tickets also became available at different times depending on region and theater chain, among other confusing factors.
As a result, some fans waited to buy tickets from their favorite theater - while pre-orders sold out at nearby theaters - and are still waiting for availability from their chosen location. Even at the time of this writing, some theaters have yet to post opening weekend tickets - while others remain entirely offline. While there's no way of eliminating scalpers, pre-order hiccups have made tonight frustrating for many Star Wars faithfuls - even in the face of a new, well-received, full length trailer.
Hopefully, as online ticket sellers come back online more fans will be able to acquire tickets for opening weekend - even if those moviegoers may not be able to get into a premium showing in their favorite theater. There will be plenty of time to experience the film in IMAX or RPX; however, getting to see the film alongside equally passionate fans (without spoilers) opening weekend may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some viewers. Here's hoping that most of our readers manage to get tickets - or, at the very least, can find reasonably priced tickets from resellers.
Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode 8 on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.