According to Entertainment Weekly, the Alamo Drafthouse chain of theaters apologized to customers unable to access their website and buy advance tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. "We had the single biggest simultaneous surge for movie tickets our industry has ever seen," said Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League in a statement. Though the demand brought down websites all over the world, League said it was not an excuse.
"We thought we were ready," he continued. "We spun up 40 simultaneous servers and were monitoring the load to instantaneously add more if needed. We hosted our static pages in a state-of-the-art cloud environment that could also instantaneously expand with demand. The massive onslaught of simultaneous users, however, exposed an unforeseen flaw in the ticketing infrastructure itself that we were unable to fix on the fly." If you recall the old days of getting a hotel for San Diego Comic-Con, the phrase "simultaneous users" will be quite familiar.
Until 2011, the reservation system also attempted to transfer people to a payment site which was never ready to handle the load. It is unclear if the hand-off to the payment system is the flaw in the infrastructure League refers to, but just as with other ticketing sites bracing for a big sale, the demand is difficult to gauge and truly be ready to encounter.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the demand for Force Awakens on ticketing site Fandango solidly outpaced the website's previous record-holder, the first The Hunger Games. In a statement, the company said it sold eight times as many tickets last night than the first day Hunger Games tickets were available in 2012. "Movie theaters are continually adding new show times on Fandango to meet the phenomenal demand," said Fandango.
Of course, for anyone who waited in a long, long line in 1999 for Phantom Menace tickets, the fact people want to see Star Wars after a long absence shouldn't be too surprising … even if the prequel films broke their spirits.
With the new Star Wars already proving to be a big box office event, the true test comes on December 18th, when reaction to the film finally begins to trickle in.