"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" doesn't debut in theaters for another month, but tickets for the movie are already on sale at Internet box offices such as Fandango, AOL's Moviefone and MovieTickets.com. As they have with previous blockbusters such as "," " " and " ," the sites are trying to cash in on the early buzz on what is expected to be one of the year's most popular movies.
"This is exactly the type of movie that is tailor-made for advanced sales," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office sales. "This is where online ticketing shines and shows its most relevant feature: being able to buy tickets for films that are thought to be sellouts."
Although they still make up just a fraction of the overall market for movie tickets, online ticket sales have been growing in recent years. For popular movies and in urban areas, they have become a welcome alternative to standing in line. In New York, San Francisco and other cities, many of the show times for "Attack of the Clones" were sold out on its opening weekend in large part due to online ticket sales.
Last year's Harry Potter movie is helping to build expectations for this year's installment. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" setfor online tickets sales as part of its $90 million opening weekend in overall sales.
This year's return to Hogwarts opens in theaters on Nov. 15, and it could prove to be even more popular than the first movie, especially with online consumers, Dergarabedian said.
"There may be even more people buying tickets online for Harry Potter, just because people may have learned the first time how difficult it was to get a seat," he said.
Fandango started selling Harry Potter tickets last week, company spokeswoman Karin Olsen said. That's the earliest the company has ever started selling tickets to a movie, she said. Olsen said she didn't have any sales figures yet.
"But by the past indications, it's going to be huge," she said.
Likewise, MovieTickets.com has big expectations for Harry Potter, company spokeswoman Kim Holt said. The company sold about 740,000 tickets, about $4.5 million worth, for last year's Harry Potter movie, Holt said. That makes it the site's second best-selling ticket ever, after "Attack of the Clones," she said.
"Star Wars was a great impetus for consumers to see how valuable it was to get tickets in advance," Holt said. "Whether or not this is going to surpass 'Star Wars Episode II,' we don't know that. But we expect it to do well."