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Star Wars hikes online credit orders

The debut of Phantom Menace could spur a new crop of regular customers buying movie passes online or at kiosks, analysts say.

The force of Star Wars enthusiasts today brought online credit card traffic to peaks rivaling the Mother's Day and Valentine's Day rushes, according to National Data Corporation.

The Atlanta-based transaction processing services firm reported a record number of fans used credit and debit cards over the Net to buy tickets to the latest Star Wars flick. NDC, which handles more than 3.7 billion transactions annually, said its credit card volume jumped more than 25 percent at its West Coast center during the first day of the movie's ticket sales.

Analysts say the Star Wars event could spur a new crop of customers to regularly buy their movie passes online or at kiosks, despite problems fans encountered last week.

The Star Wars scramble began last Wednesday as tickets for the new movie, Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace went on sale on the Web, swamping servers and causing buyer confusion.

In one notable example, MovieFone, which conducts sales for several major theaters, was hit by slowdowns and even periods when users couldn't get through. The company, which is slated to be acquired by America Online, has been selling tickets online since July 1995 and has agreements to sell tickets for Century Theaters, AMC Theaters and General Cinema, among others.

Despite beefing up operations with additional servers, the company said ticket demand far exceeded expectations.