‘Pearl’ hype swirls online

Cyberbiz Brief

Need more evidence of “Pearl Harbor’s” opening-weekend might?

Online ticketing sites Fadango.com, AOL Moviefone.com and Movietickets.com experienced an unprecedented surge in business in the week leading up to the pic’s May 25 bow, thanks to Netizens unwilling to spend hours waiting in theater lines to buy tickets during the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Advance tickets went on sale at Fandango.com May 21. In two days, it sold more tickets for “Pearl Harbor” than it had for “The Mummy Returns,” “Hannibal” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” combined.

“Since Fandango began operating last July, we have not seen such incredible demand for advance tickets,” says Art Levitt, Fandango’s prexy and CEO.MovieTickets.com, which links to the pic’s official Web site (PearlHarbor.com), started selling tickets May 16. The site has done four times more business for “Pearl Harbor” than any other movie in the service’s history.

In addition to the pic’s heavyweight appeal, co-CEO Mitch Rubenstein credits increased sales to the public’s extreme interest in the film, as well as the growing awareness of online ticketing and what he calls “the good restaurant theory.”

“If you live in L.A. or New York and you want to go to a good restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night, you know you’re going to have to make reservations in advance or you’re not getting in,” he says. “People are starting to realize that the same applies to summer blockbusters.”

Nevertheless, online buyers still had to cue up at will-call windows to pick up their tickets.