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NewCityNet Moviefone Blues?

Moviefone may find that its number is up

By Elaine Richardson

MARCH 28, 2000:  If the moviehouses are evolving, it only stands to reason that ticketing is also up for some fine-tuning. And after an unprecedented run as the major source for online and telephone ticketing, Moviefone may find that its number is up.

On March 8 six major movie exhibitors -- Loews Cineplex, Cinemark Theaters, Regal Cinemas, General Cinemas, Edwards Theatres and Century Theatres, in conjunction with General Atlantic Partners and Accretive Technology Partners -- founded an as yet unnamed consortium to launch their own Internet portal for showtimes, tickets and other information. General Atlantic and Accretive Technology have experience in working with high-traffic sites such as tickets.com and priceline.com, says Mindy Tucker, Loews Cineplex corporate vice president for strategic planning.

The combination of these six effectively places 12,000 movie screens under a single ticketing arm. But the new, as yet unnamed Website is only a small part of the new company's ambitions, which will also "provide a comprehensive offering of remote ticketing services, showtimes, reviews and trailers for the movie-going public via the Internet, telephone and wireless services."

"We plan to launch over the summer -- but we haven't come up with a name yet," Tucker says. "The goal is, hopefully with the initial launch, to have printable tickets without special hardware."

Tucker says the new venture will sell the tickets, plus a surcharge comparable to competitors like Moviefone and Hollywood.com. So will they be providing times and information to Moviefone, et al and if not, is this it for the competition? No one wants to say. This is what Tucker would allow: "We're granting exclusivity to this Website. In the near term we do have existing agreements both with Moviefone and Hollywood.com that we'll honor."

But how exactly did all these competing theaters decide to go along with this? "Everyone recognized the value of having as many exhibitors as possible on the Website," Tucker says. "Rather than having a third party come in and benefit, exhibitors can benefit directly."

Direct benefit is a popular idea. Back in February AMC Theaters signed on with MovieTickets.com -- a joint venture between AMC, National Amusements (which operates 1,350 U.S. screens as Showcase and Multiplex Cinemas) and Hollywood.com, which is open to all exhibitors seeking Internet ticketing. With AMC, this site will cover about 4,400 of the nation's screens.

"It's pretty fundamental to our business that this is the next evolution in the ticketing process," says Brenda Nolte, vice president of corporate affairs for AMC.

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