Unless you have been living under a rock these past few months, chances are you are aware that there is a little movie named Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming to cinemas in December this year. The highly anticipated Episode VII of the space saga has had a release date for quite some time now – December 16 in parts of Europe including France and Sweden, as well as Taiwan and The Philippines, December 17 in countries including the UK, Australia, UAE, Mexico and Russia and the rest of the world (including the USA) on December 18 – aside from China who have to wait until January 29th.
We’ve had sneak previews, Comic Con announcements, yesterday’s reveal of the Luke-less poster (above) and a trailer coming later today, all to tie in with the worldwide release of, well, potentially the biggest box office sensation of all time. So you would think movie theatres/cinema chains would be prepared for a busy day on their websites on the day that tickets to Star Wars became available to book online, wouldn’t you?
Hmmm. We haven’t heard how the rest of the world faired this morning yet, but certainly two of the UK’s biggest cinema chains – Odeon and Cineworld – got a fair bit of abuse online as their websites buckled under the strain of people trying to book tickets as they went on sale at 8am. Certainly, our experience over here at Movies4Kids wasn’t too positive. While I will hopefully see the movie just before release at a screening for critics like myself writing reviews, my husband and son aren’t so lucky and wanted to buy tickets for one of the earliest public performances at Odeon’s flagship cinema in Leicester Square. Simple, right? Ha.
The Odeon website simply couldn’t cope with the demand, failing at every step of the booking process, and after over two hours of trying (yes, we are very dedicated Star Wars fans… well, of the original movies, at least) I was ready to spew blood, just like poor Hugh Bonneville in last night’s Downton Abbey. Taking to Twitter, I saw just about everyone had encountered the same problem – payments not going through, bookings failing at each step, messages saying that bookings were suspended because the website had imploded, and that visitors to the Cineworld site had experienced similar problems. Many people tweeted asking why the cinemas hadn’t prepared for a mass of bookings – surely they knew Star Wars may be a little bit popular? – but amongst all the grumbles, there was one glimmer of hope… a user suggested trying the Odeon app rather than the website. Thanks to that suggestion, I got tickets within 15 minutes (after entering my credit card details so many times I think I may have purchased the entire Odeon Leicester Square) and can now breathe easily knowing neither my husband or my son will hit me with a toy lightsaber when I least expect it.
So, tut tut to Odeon and all the other cinema booking systems for not being prepared, and a shout out to my father who, when hearing of my Star Wars traumas, sighed and sagely replied: “It is only a movie, you know…”