- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

Movie buffs probably will want to check the status of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" at their local theater before going.
Online advance-ticket-purchasing agents such as Fandango.com, Moviefone.com and Movietickets.com reported record opening-day sales yesterday for the epic, a three-hour sequel based on the popular trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Fandango was selling three tickets per second for first showings of the film, said Art Levitt, Fandango president and CEO.
"We expect that rate to go up as we get closer to Friday, but clearly this is a great opening day compared with a Friday opening," Mr. Levitt said.
Shows in the District, Arlington, Fairfax, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Sterling, Va., were already sold out for yesterday's opening by 3 p.m., with today and tomorrow's showings filling up quickly, according to the Santa Monica, Calif., cinema Web site that represents 7,700 screens nationwide.
While Mr. Levitt would not give projections on the number of tickets sold, he said the volume had surpassed Fandango's sales for the first "Lord of the Rings" movie, subtitled "The Fellowship of the Ring," which accounted for 5 percent of ticket sales for the $313 million-grossing movie.
"This has surpassed any other opening day to date, including Spider-Man," he said. Fandango brought in 3 percent of ticket sales for that $403.7 million box office hit last summer.
Movietickets also posted higher pre-opening-day ticket sales for the sequel than for the first "Rings" movie, said Stuart Halperin, executive vice president of marketing for the Santa Monica cinema sales Web site.
"We're seeing huge sales of people buying in advance for this movie," which started a month ago, Mr. Halperin said.
While Web sites generally account for 2 percent to 6 percent of total ticket sales, Mr. Halperin said high-profile movies such as "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings" are pushing the figures into double digits.
Stacey Herron, an entertainment and media analyst, said she expected the spike in online sales for the highly anticipated second "Rings" installment.
"Online ticket sales are going to be driven with these event movies, where people are planning weeks in advance where and when they want to see the movie," said Ms. Herron with Jupitermedia Corp., the New York entertainment research firm.
"It also doesn't hurt that the type of individual that is really obsessed about seeing this movie is more acclimated to using the Internet to buy tickets," she added.
The spike in advanced online ticket sales has been highly concentrated in bigger cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington as well as Midwest suburban areas, said a spokesman for Moviefone.com, a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc.
"You have to buy tickets online in the bigger cities if you want to see the movie this weekend," said the spokesman, who did not want to be named.

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