August 18, 2009 / 9:09 AM / 9 years ago

"Avatar" site crashes as fans seek tickets

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The official “Avatar” Web site crashed for several hours on Monday as moviegoers rushed to secure free seats to see the 16 minutes of 3D preview footage that will be shown at 104 Imax theaters around the country on Friday evening.

Ticket ordering was scheduled to begin online at noon PDT, but at about 11:55 a.m., the site started experiencing difficulties. About 17,000 of the 68,000 available tickets were distributed before the heavy traffic forced the site down for several hours.

“Due to the overwhelming response for tickets to the ‘Avatar’ event on 8/21, our servers have crashed. We will update you as soon as possible,” ticket seekers were advised by “Avatar’s” Twitter site.

By late afternoon, avatarmovie.com was again up and running, taking five orders every second. Locations in New York and Los Angeles sold out almost immediately.

Given that “Avatar,” James Cameron’s first narrative feature since 1997’s “Titanic,” promises a display of cutting-edge technology, the site snafu was something of an embarrassment.

At the same time, it had to be good news for 20th Century Fox, which is facing the challenge of creating awareness for a movie that isn’t based on a pre-existing brand, book or film. The sci-fi adventure — with a budget the studio has put at $237 million — opens in the U.S. on December 18 and worldwide that same week.

Fox and Cameron have been slowly unveiling footage from the film. first at the CineExpo convention in Amsterdam in June and then at last month’s Comic-Con. But Friday will be the first chance for many moviegoers to see for themselves scenes in which Australian actor Sam Worthington, playing a paralyzed Marine who travels to the planet of Pandora, finds new life as an avatar — a blue-skinned, 10-foot tall, half-human, half-alien hybrid.

“I think to say that there is already a lot of interest in the movie is a pretty good understatement. Obviously, it blew out all the servers,” said Greg Foster, Imax’s chairman and president of filmed entertainment. “It’s a pretty big statement about the curiosity and interest in the whole thing.”

The participating Imax theaters, in between regularly scheduled screenings of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will offer two screenings Friday of the “Avatar” footage, which will include a 30-second introduction by Cameron in which he sets up the clips. Foster said there are no plans to offer more screenings.

Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters

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