Not to be outdone by their bigger competitors, several mid-size cinema chains have banded together to create their own Web site hawking movie tickets and giving information on show times and theater locations.
The new venture, dubbed Fandango.com, enters a crowded market. It is competing with the likes of such well-known sites as Hollywood.com, MovieTickets.com, Tickets.com and MovieFone.com. And there's no sign that profits are on the horizon for any of these sites. Indeed, Reel.com, which was purchased in 1998 by Hollywood Video for $100 million, recently pulled the plug on its Web site, which had sold videos and DVDs and provided movie news, reviews and show times.
Still, that's not discouraging the seven movie exhibitors, many of them based in L.A., from launching Fandango.com sometime this summer. Its test site is slated for launch in the next few weeks.
The company, dubbed Fandango Inc., is a partnership between Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Regal Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas, Cinemark Theatres, General Cinema Theatres, Edwards Theatres and Century Theatres. Collectively, these chains make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. movie-going market, company officials said.
Heading up Fandango Inc. will be Art Levitt III, recently named president and chief executive. Levitt, currently president of Disney Regional Entertainment and former president and chief executive of Hard Rock Caf & #233; International, starts his new job July 1.
"This will be the only site where you will be able to purchase tickets to the movie theaters of these seven exhibitors outside of these theaters," Levitt said.
However, moviegoers also will still be able to purchase movie tickets to Loews, General Cinema, and Edwards cinemas on MovieFone.com for at least a year until the contracts between those chains and the Web site expire.
Andrew Jarecki, chief executive of MovieFone.com, which was purchased by America Online last year, said he isn't worried about the competition from Fandango.com, which will be based in Los Angeles. He said MovieFone sells movie tickets for 25 to 30 exhibitor chains across the country and has 3 million unique visitors a week that use the Web site or order tickets by telephone.
"I don't think it will affect us at all," Jarecki said from his headquarters in White Plains, N.Y. "I think the main issue here is, the public has a big appetite for movie-going."
Hollywood.com executives say they aren't concerned, either. That company sells tickets for AMC Theatres, the biggest exhibitor in the country. Hollywood.com has never sold tickets for the seven movie exhibitors forming Fandango.com.
"We were not as interested in having exhibitors that competed with each other in the same market," said Mitchell Rubenstein, chairman and chief executive of Hollywood.com.
While Fandango is debating whether to charge movie-goers a fee for purchasing tickets online, Hollywood.com and MovieFone.com charge no fee for online purchases. They make their money through e-commerce sales of movie-related merchandise, by selling banner ads on their sites, and by charging exhibitors a fee for each ticket sold online.
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