“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is on track to break box-office records across the board, but not every fan has been able to get their hands on the precious advance sale tickets.
When Disney and Lucasfilm announced pre-sale tickets would be available Monday evening after the new trailer aired, dedicated “Star Wars” fans immediately put together game plans.
The movie premieres on Friday, December 18, but technically the first available showing is at 7 pm on Thursday, December 17.
Some fans decided to purchase tickets online through sites like Fandango or MovieTickets.com.
Others went the “old-fashioned” route, and camped outside their local theatre.
Unfortunately for some, the latter strategy failed.
We spoke with Stewart Quarles, who was the first in line at Chicago’s Navy Pier IMAX theatre. Quarles had called ahead, and was told the theatre would “sell to the box office … as soon as the trailer airs.”
Quarles and several other superfans were at the theatre early. “We got down there a few hours prior.” he told TI. “We knew it was going to be wait…and then we asked in person again: ‘[Tickets will be sold] as soon as the trailer airs, right?’ and she said, ‘Yes, but we don’t know when that’s going to be.'”
Official “Star Wars” press releases said tickets for the film would be available following the launch of the new trailer.
The press release indicated the trailer would air during the football game’s halftime. Since the game started at 8:15 pm (EST), and the average football game lasts just over three hours, most expected the trailer to drop sometime late in the 9 o’clock hour.
The Navy Pier IMAX theatre had a FAQ page posted on Facebook and Twitter, repeating the plan (emphasis is ours):
When do tickets go on sale?
After the new trailer that Disney has scheduled to be released on television tonight during the Monday Night Football game on ESPN. No specific time has been announced.
Where can I buy tickets?
You can purchase tickets on our website at www.imax.com/chicago or at the box office. Tonight the box office will be open until 10:00 pm. Online sales are available 24 hours a day.
The new “Star Wars” trailer didn’t premiere on ESPN until after 10 p.m; however, tickets were up for sale before the game had even started.
Quarles told TI his friend was texting him before the first quarter was over, warning him tickets were selling out online. One Redditor told TI he saw tickets available on Fandango “around 8pm or shortly thereafter.” Another superfan said she was frantically purchasing the tickets at 7:59pm.
Our Entertainment Editor Kirsten Acuna was able to browse and search for tickets after 8:10 pm.
Around 8:20 pm, Navy Pier employees informed queued fans they could now buy tickets, but the first showing was already sold out.
This stunned Quarles, and he said “the entire line had the same reaction.” To be clear, the advanced tickets sales seem completely out of the control of individual theatres. That didn’t stop upset customers from taking their anger out on social media.
Another upset Facebook user posted to the Navy Pier page, stating:
…to BETRAY so many of us by selling the tickets BEFORE the trailer aired, when it was stated repeatedly by all media outlets and on Navy Pier IMAX’s own facebook page all day that tickets would only go on sale AFTER the trailer aired…I’m sorry just doesn’t cut it. This is inexcusable.”
Though Quarles realises his disappointment is not the fault of the Navy Pier theatre, he thinks communication could have been handled better. “I don’t think the box office even knew until it was too late,” he explained. “But they just stopped caring.”
Quarles described his customer service experience as “really rude,” and even took to Facebook to lodge a complaint about the handling of ticket sales. Not only was he met with disgruntled theatre employees, but the Chicago Police department was even called to come manage the frustrated crowd. In the end, Quarles was contacted by a Navy Piers manager, who was able to sell him two tickets for Thursday’s 10 pm showing. The premiere at 7 pm was completely sold out.
Even those with the foresight to check online sales probably ran into major issues. Multiple movie ticket sites were crashing throughout the evening. As one Redditor described it, using a play on an iconic line from the movies: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of servers suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”
Navy Piers IMAX theatre declined to comment on Monday’s events. We’ve reached out to Fandango and Disney, and will update the post if we hear back.
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