Why You Can’t Buy Tickets Online For Iron Man 3 Yet – Major US Movie Chains In Dispute With Disney Over Their Cut of Ticket Sales

Iron Man may seem poised to rise to the challenge, but there are some villains even a high tech suit of armor can’t help you take on.

I’ve been sitting on this one for a few days now, ever since I heard about it last week, just in case it looked like there was going to be a quick resolution and the post would be outdated before I could even get it up, but as of right now, I’m hearing absolutely nothing as far as changes or compromise on either side.

Simply put, there is a dispute going on right now between three of the major US movie chains and Disney that has already resulted in what appears to be the cancellation of a planned marathon of movies leading up to the Iron Man 3 opening and, as of this writing, has caused a suspension in pre-sales of tickets for the expected summer movie season beginning blockbuster.

According to this article from Bloomberg Business Week and many other online and offline sources, the Regal, AMC, and Cinemark movie chains have all suspended online ticket sales for the highly anticipated sequel. The reason? At the last minute, Disney decided they wanted to re-negotiate the contracts for the movie, demanding a higher cut of the ticket sales, and the movie theaters immediately reacted by saying “No.”

Obviously, for Disney/Marvel, it seemed like a good move at the time. Coming off of the success of last year’s Avengers movie, Iron Man is the first big follow-up, and is set to garner huge box-office not only from fans of the two previous Iron Man movies, but those who were drawn in by the big-screen team-up and are looking to see what’s next for those characters. It’s also being considered the first in what looks set to be one of the biggest summers yet as far as big action movies go, what with Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel following closely behind, and even more coming down the road as the summer progresses. Surely the chains wouldn’t take a chance on losing the revenue from an obvious hit.

Can even Superman solve this dispute quickly enough?
Can even Superman solve this dispute quickly enough?

Unfortunately for them, it seems that Disney miscalculated the strength of their hand. It appears instead that the chains took one look at the new contracts and decided to draw a line in the sand. From their point of view, this is definitely a “slippery slope” negotiation that could ultimately lead not only to Disney demanding further increases down the line, but, should they give in, the other studios also demanding similar increases in their percentage of the box-office take. After all, if they give in to Disney on this, what’s to stop Warner Brothers from using Man of Steel as a bargaining chip in a similar way? And they also seem to feel that the anticipated strength of those upcoming movies from other studios will more than offset any revenue lost from this battle. After all, for them Iron Man, while it will certainly be huge, is really only a two-week blip in anticipation of the next movie coming along.

So, as of now, it appears that the studio and the theater chains have reached an impasse. But what does that mean for the movie-going audience who have been looking forward to seeing Robert Downey Jr. once again don both the persona of Tony Stark and his high tech armor? Well, that’s a good question, and one no one seems able to answer. The Regal chain, at least, has already cancelled plans for an opening day marathon that would have included showings of the first two Iron Man movies, The Avengers, and then Iron Man 3. All three chains have suspended online pre-sales of tickets for Iron Man, meaning if you go to Fandango for instance, while you may see ads encouraging you to buy your tickets now, when you click through to actually order tickets, unless you live in an area served by a Carmike cinema or one of the smaller chains, you’re going to be told that tickets are unavailable. (Carmike apparently has reached some sort of agreement with Disney already, but the details of that settlement are hard to come by.)

Is darkness exactly what's going to greet theater-goers who want to see Iron Man 3?
Is darkness exactly what’s going to greet theater-goers who want to see Iron Man 3?

Of course, with the May 3 opening date for Iron Man 3 less than two weeks away, everyone is expecting that some kind of agreement will be forthcoming in the next few days, but from what I’ve been able to tell, neither side is showing any sign of blinking. And as is usual in these kind of disputes, it’s likely the movie going public that’s going to bear the brunt of this dispute. After all, if the chains don’t give in, then it could very well mean that we will not actually see Iron Man opening as scheduled. And if they do, then of course any increase in the percentage of money they have to give to the studios is most certainly going to be used as an excuse to once again raise ticket prices at a time when the average consumer is already feeling sticker-shock at the cost of a night out at the theater.

Of course, I’ll be following this one along and will pass on any news as it becomes available, but for right now, I’d put any plans for attending early or opening night screenings of Iron Man on hold. Because it seems like this may be a dispute that even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can’t quickly resolve.

***UPDATED 8PM 4/23/13*** Just left out local Regal theater where they were in the process of tearing down and removing all of the promotional material for Iron Man 3, including the giant archway at the entrance to the theater. This is what could be considered officially Not A Good Sign.***

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