Service to connect to 2,000 screens

Exhibition giant AMC Entertainment and Hollywood.com Wednesday announced plans for a new online ticketing service called MovieTickets.com that will be half-owned by each partner.

Announcement came a day after another major theater chain, Cinemark, unveiled a similar venture, Cinemark.com.

AMC’s site, that company’s first foray onto the Internet — will launch with purchase connections to roughly 2,000 screens in at least nine of the top 10 U.S. markets

As with Cinemark.com, tickets bought via MovieTickets.com will be reserved by the theater in real time to avoid overselling of particular showings and will be available for pick-up from a dedicated window or automated box office at the theater. Partners foresee home printing of tickets as the technology develops.

Extensive access to showtimes

Visitors will also have access to more than 30,000 showtimes and to other features of Hollywood.com, which boasts almost 1 million pages of entertainment-oriented content. New site will also link to Hollywood.com’s branded movie merchandise store.

The site will operate fee-free for the first six months, execs said, after which time a fee will be developed that is competitive with such alternatives as Moviefone.

AMC chairman-CEO Peter Brown said the two companies’ shared capital investment in the launch won’t exceed $1 million. The partners expect revenue of over $7 million in the first year of operation, rising to the neighborhood of $80 million in four to five years.

While MovieTickets.com will begin selling tickets to AMC screens only, execs say they will try to court other exhibs using parent Hollywood.com’s large visitor base and broad content.

“The opportunity here is immense,” Brown said. “I think that given the technology and the presence that the Internet has and will continue to have… we’ll see the percentage for Internet ticketing becoming substantially larger.” Exhib now sells 150 million tickets annually.

Hollywood.com shareholders include CBS, Gannett and Times Mirror. AMC operates 210 theaters with 2,868 screens in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Portugal, Spain and France.

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