Movie Ticket Presales Feel Dirty

I suppose I’m not hip to the times when it comes to buying movie tickets. Back in the day, I once worked at a movie theater. I rarely go to the theater to watch movies these days, but when I do, I almost always walk up to the box office and pay in cash.

Yesterday, May 21, I saw an announcement that tickets for the movie “Man of Steel” are already on sale. This is the new Superman movie that is slated to be one of the biggest 2013 summer blockbusters. I want to see it. My issue is that the movie doesn’t come out until June 14! I was puzzled by the ticket sale announcement. When did this trend of pre-selling tickets begin? I didn’t know that’s how it is done these days. I don’t think I like it.

Movies don’t share the same exclusivity as concerts, plays, or other live performances. Movies are easily reproducible. Moviegoers should have a reasonable expectation of being able to walk up to the theater and buy a ticket for a show right before it starts. If you let fans go willy-nilly on the Internet and buy tickets weeks ahead of time, then casual customers will be locked out of seeing a movie for days or weeks after it comes out.

You know what this is all about. It’s not about convenience. It’s about boosting sales. The presale of tickets amounts to a commercialized money grab.

The premiere weekend box office numbers for the new Superman will be astronomical. It will probably have the biggest box office weekend sales ever. That’s what the movie studios want. But it will be in part because people have three weeks to buy tickets before anyone even sees it! The studio will spend millions advertising the movie as the ticket sales roll in, without anyone being critical of the movie because the public won’t be able see it for weeks. If the movie ends up being underwhelming, it won’t get dinged by negative word of mouth or people trashing it online.

I do think that theaters should sell tickets all at once for every showing on a particular day. Everyone should be able to go online or stop by the theater and buy tickets for any movie playing at any time on that day. Just not days ahead of time.

I wrote all of this knowing that advanced ticket presales are probably here to stay, for better or worse. It all just feels a little dirty to me.

I used “Man of Steel” as an example because it’s the movie that brought my attention to this whole presale business. I’m sure that other movies have the same ticketing format. So don’t get me wrong, I do want to see this movie. It will be great to see on the big screen! I plan to go see it at some point after it comes out. I’m just not willing to schedule a movie night a month ahead of time and buy tickets weeks in advance. It isn’t a concert, it’s just a movie.

Author: Craig Tisinger


4 thoughts on “Movie Ticket Presales Feel Dirty”

  1. In general, I’m with you that buying tickets early like that is a bit lame. On the other hand, my favorite theater to go to is one in downtown Charlotte that does exactly that. The catch though is it’s assigned seating. The seats are all big, plush chairs, and there’s very few to a row. You go online, see which seats are available for your movie and time, and choose. Throw in that it serves alcohol and some nice food if you’re in the mood, plus no kids after 7pm as the outer area doubles as a restaurant/bar, and it gets my repeat business every time, even if the seat is $3 or $4 more. That may seem pricey, but given I see at most 10 movies on the big screen a year, that’s a premium I’m willing to pay.

  2. Craig: I agree. Kevin: Big seats, few per row, pick seating, alcohol, nice food, no kids… Wow. What else would I want? Built-in urinal?

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