Buy Tickets Online, Not in Line

SAN FRANCISCO (05/25/2000) - It's Memorial Day weekend--time for cookouts, trips to the beach, and waiting in line for tickets to see Mission: Impossible 2. Hmmm, better skip the beach and the cookout if you want to have a chance to see Tom Cruise in all his glory, right? Those ticket lines at the theater can take forever.

MovieTickets.com Inc. has an easier way. The site, which launched on Thursday, lets you order tickets right from your PC. MovieTickets.com sells tickets for more than 5500 theater screens throughout the United States, and also offers movie reviews and previews, as well as related entertainment news.

The site was founded by Hollywood.com, a popular entertainment news site, in conjunction with several movie theater chains, including AMC Entertainment, National Amusements, and Famous Players.

To use the service, you enter your zip code or the town in which you live to search for a theater near you and the movie you want to see. Theaters that have agreed to sell their tickets through the site will appear at the top of the list. You can purchase tickets by selecting a show time and entering your name and credit card number. You then pick up the tickets at the movie theater, at either an ATM-style machine in the lobby or at the ticket booth, using your credit card for confirmation.

MovieTickets.com does not add a surcharge to the price of the tickets--you pay exactly the same amount as you would if you had waited in line. The prices and credit card policies are determined by the individual theater.

So what are the chances that your favorite theater will be selling tickets through this site? Pretty good, says Mitchell Rubenstein, the chair and chief executive of Hollywood.com. He estimates that there are 30,000 movie screens in the U.S., and while MovieTickets.com serves only approximately 5500 of them, it reaches more than half of the top grossing movie theaters.

A quick test of the site proved him right. I searched for Mission: Impossible 2 and found that the movie theater right across the street from my apartment was selling tickets through MovieTickets.com. Five other theaters in the greater Boston area also had tickets available online.

Welcome to Moviefone

The launch of MovieTickets.com comes one day after its competitor, America Online Inc.'s Moviefone.com, eliminated the service charge from its Web-based ticketing service. Moviefone, which started selling movie tickets online in 1995, previously charged a fee between $1.00 and $1.50 for each ticket purchased, says Christine Fakundiny, the company's director of marketing.

Moviefone serves more than 5000 screens, she estimates.

Both services will soon have wireless options as well. Moviefone is already available through Palm Inc. VII devices, and the company has just inked a deal with OmniSky to become available on Palm V handhelds, says Fakundiny.

MovieTickets.com expects to announce a deal with AT&T Wireless within a few weeks, according to Rubenstein. And both services will eventually allow you to print your own tickets at home. After you purchase the tickets, you'll print the ticket with a bar code, which will be scanned at the movie theater.

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