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Hollywood Tests Movie Ticket Sales at Walmart With ‘Man of Steel’

Retail giant is first to offer tickets to early screenings from a major studio

Walmart is about to give Superman an early boost at the box office, with the company becoming the first retailer to sell tickets to an advance screening of a studio film. It’s a deal that, if it takes off with consumers, could quickly become a new source of revenue for Hollywood’s majors while altering the way moviegoers are lured into the megaplex.

The retail giant will offer nearly 1 million tickets to Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel” at 3,700 stores nationwide beginning May 18, at 8 a.m., for screenings scheduled June 13. Film officially bows Stateside on June 14. Advance tickets won’t become available to more traditional outlets until May 21 or 22, giving Walmart at three- to four-day advance on sales.

The 6,372 exclusive screenings will take place at 2,379 theaters, with consumers able to purchase up to four tix for either 2D or 3D showings in their area. Walmart will promote the early sales on Facebook and Twitter with #SeeSteelFirst. The amount of tickets available per store will be determined by their size and the cities in which they’re located.

Walmart launched a microsite to identify which theaters are participating.

To sweeten the deal, the ticket price will include a free code to pre-order a Blu-ray combo pack or HD digital download of “Man of Steel,” which will contain exclusive film content. They also will get a free original digital comicbook penned by “Man of Steel” screenwriter David Goyer.

The deal is significant for various reasons:

  • At a time when chains are competing for exclusive merchandise to sell from the studios, Walmart clearly sees the deal as a way to prove that it’s still the biggest fish in the retail pond.
  • The ticket sales will not only boost the pre-sale box office of “Man of Steel,” they’re also meant to pump up early demand for the film’s eventual homevideo release across multiple platforms. Despite declining DVD sales, Hollywood has hardly given up on the rest of its homevideo divisions just yet and the Walmart deal is an innovative move to generate more coin for parts of that business that’s still showing signs of growth — namely Blu-ray and digital.
  • For Warner Bros., having the nation’s largest retailer on its side gives the studio the kind of marketing muscle few other tentpoles can tout and help launch “Man of Steel” to greater heights at the B.O. than 2006’s “Superman Returns.” After all, the success of “Man of Steel,” which introduces Henry Cavill in the red cape, is key to Warner Bros.’ efforts to introduce other DC Comics characters in their own franchises or lead to a “Justice League” film that already has fanboys lathered up with anticipation. With the amount of traffic flowing into Walmart’s stores each day, Warner Bros. is guaranteed a lot of exposure for its superhero.

“We know the movie delivers and believe this unique partnership will kick off strong word of mouth that, thanks to the reach and immediacy of social media, will propel moviegoers to theaters nationwide,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. Pictures president of domestic distribution. Legendary Entertainment co-produced “Man of Steel,” helmed by Zack Snyder.

  • And for Walmart, the company is betting big on “Man of Steel” as a title it hopes will lure consumers into its stores. In addition to selling tickets to early screenings, it will also start offering “Man of Steel” merchandise, beginning April 28, that includes T-shirts, electronics, posters and other items on shelves and online at Walmart.com.

Superman has always been one of DC’s top sellers when it comes to licensed merchandise, and with a new film in theaters, Warner Bros. is eager to exploit the character across various age groups this summer — something Walmart is eager to support.

In addition, Walmart is backing the “Man of Steel Experience” mobile app,  using augmented reality technology to enable customers to take photos with Superman using their smartphones at various locations around stores. App is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Either way, “Man of Steel” will likely be just the first film Walmart offers its customers, should ticket sales take off. And its manager are already learning the ropes of the exhibition biz, as they’re the ones that determined which local theater chains would be part of the early Superman screenings. Nearly every chain is represented as part of the early run.

The test using Walmart stores will also dictate whether studios expand the offer to other retailers like Target, Best Buy, Toys R Us, perhaps even Amazon, in the future.

“We couldn’t be more excited to give our customers and associates early access to one of the summer’s most anticipated movies,” said Laura Phillips, senior VP of entertainment at Walmart U.S. in a statement. “Walmart’s premiere of ‘Man of Steel’ once again proves we have the ambition and studio partnerships to develop unique retail programs that give our customers access to the movies they love.”

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