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Behind the crash: Force too strong for cinemas selling ‘Star Wars’ tickets

The Force clearly wasn’t with cinema owners Monday night.

Consumers seeking to buy advance tickets to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” found themselves out of luck when several theater websites crashed, apparently overwhelmed by the large volume of orders.

Fandango, a leading online ticket provider, and AMC Theatres, the nation’s second-largest theater chain, were among those affected.  Austin, Texas based Alamo Drafthouse and Los Angeles-based Arclight Cinemas also had difficulties with their websites.

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Angry patrons took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

“It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out, and were suddenly silenced by the Arclight Cinemas site refusing to load,” one customer complained.

“We greatly apologize for the inconvenience, but we are working quickly to get the website back up ASAP,” Arclight said in a statement Monday night.

Representatives of AMC declined to comment.

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Despite the technical problems experienced by some customers, Fandango said it experienced “phenomenal demand” for the Star Wars tickets. The company said it sold eight times as many tickets compared to the first presales day for “Hunger Games” in 2012, which set the previous record for advance ticket sales.

“With such extraordinary demand, we saw intermittent technical challenges that caused some consumers to queue online longer than expected,” the company said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we were able to continuously serve ticket sales throughout the night...Movie theaters are continually adding new show times on Fandango to meet the phenomenal demand.”

Alamo Drafthouse Chief Executive Tim League apologized to customers.

“Last night we had the single biggest simultaneous surge for movie tickets our industry has ever seen,” he said in a statement. “The great news is that Star Wars fandom is as strong as ever. Unfortunately, that surge exposed weaknesses in our ticketing infrastructure, and that of Fandango, Regal, AMC and Cinemark, not to mention other exhibitors across the globe who also crashed. But that is not a good enough excuse.  The Alamo Drafthouse has been preparing for this hugely important day for the past nine months, and we thought we were ready...The massive onslaught of simultaneous users, however, exposed an unforeseen flaw in the ticketing infrastructure itself that we were unable to fix on the fly." 

Theater chains in the United Kingdom experienced similar problems with early ticket sales.

The ticketing problems are an embarrassment for chains that are hoping to cash in on the biggest movie of the year, one that could help the industry set a new box-office record.

Theaters frequently sell tickets before the opening of highly anticipated movies.

The movie, from Disney-owned Lucasfilm, opens in theaters in the U.S. on Dec. 18. The seventh installment in the “Star Wars” franchise is directed by J.J. Abrams.

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