While supplies last: Disney offers 2-for-1 special on tickets for ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’

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Walt Disney Studios is taking a marketing cue for ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ from theme parks during the slow winter season.

In a move that distribution and marketing executives said is highly unusual, Disney today offered ‘buy one get one free’ tickets for ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ today via its Twitter account and a new account owned by Twitter for promotional deals called Earlybird.

Moviegoers who use a special code when purchasing tickets from get the discount, for which there is a limited supply.

The marketing ploy comes as Disney opened the movie Wednesday following a marketing campaign that has failed to generate much audience interest. People who have seen pre-release audience surveys and early ticket sales say it is likely to gross $30 million to $35 million in the U.S. and Canada by Sunday, a weak total for a summer event film that cost about $150 million to produce.


Fandango has done other ‘buy one get one free’ offers for movies, including May’s ‘Shrek Forever After’ and next week’s ‘Salt.’ But those coupons work only for purchases made with a Visa Signature card as part of a sponsorship deal with the credit card company.

A Fandango spokesman didn’t know of any similar offers done directly by a studio. Several veteran marketing and distribution executives speaking on condition of anonymity said they also weren’t aware of any.

While two-for-one deals are usually associated with products that stores want to clear out quickly, a Disney spokesman said the studio was offering the deal to take advantage of Twitter’s new Earlybird account, which has more than 50,000 followers and requires participating companies to offer some kind of promotion. ‘We have been doing a lot of experimentation with social media and this is an opportunity to be on the cutting edge,’ said Disney spokesman John Nicoletti.

In a best-case scenario, getting more people in to see ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ early could help build positive buzz, which studios also try to do sometimes with pre-release ‘sneak previews.’ However, the offer could simply end up costing Disney money as people who were already going to see the movie get in free.

-- Ben Fritz