June 7, 2018 – Yet another sign of Star Wars Celebration-mania: In less than 48 hours, both the five-day Adult and five-day Kid tickets to Celebration Chicago were gone.
“If you snooze, you lose”: The Celebration website greeted purchasers this morning, June 7th, with the news that all multi-day tickets were “Sold Out!”
In Celebrations past – Orlando 2017, London 2016, Anaheim 2015 – attendees “knew” that the multi-day tickets would be available for several months. While the multi-day passes have always sold out, fans took it as an article of faith they could wait several pay periods – even months – before taking the plunge.
At Celebration Orlando (2017), the four-day pass went on sale May 25, 2016, and was sold out by Dec. 22, 2016. While that’s four months before the April 2017 convention, fans had a reasonable seven months to obtain the four-day ticket.
But no longer. Chicago gave us less than 48 hours.
Yesterday’s warning from organizer ReedPOP that 90% of the multi-day tickets had been purchased was the first and only warning for fence-sitters that they had better commit or risk paying more for daily admission.
So what’s changed? In light of all the bad press that Disney and Lucasfilm have received for the public’s tepid response to Solo: A Star Wars Story and mixed reaction to The Last Jedi, weren’t more than a few fans walking away from the Star Wars universe? Apparently not.
Some Reasons Why Ticket Sales Took Off
1. Chicago and the Midwest – A Huge Pool of New Attendees:
Chicago is the most populous city in the American Midwest. Both the city and its suburbs are home to over 9.8 million people. One of the largest (if not the largest) percentages of Celebration attendees are expected to hail from the Midwest due to proximity, ease of transportation and pent-up demand.
This map from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, highlighted in red, the Federal Government’s designation of the 12 U.S. midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin with over 65 million residents as of 2012.
The last time the Midwest hosted a Celebration was in 2005 in Indiana. After 14 years of drought, you would expect a lot of pent-up demand from local Star Wars enthusiasts.
By contrast, the lower population center of Greater Orlando had the privilege of hosting Celebration in 2010, 2012 and 2017. Similarly, California was the host in 2007 (Los Angeles) and 2015 (Anaheim). With the exception of the VIP tickets, all other tickets did not sell out as quickly in Florida or California.
Add in Canadian visitors (2017 population: over 36 million) just north of Illinois’ border, and you have a recipe for huge interest and demand like never before.
2. Growing Attendance at All Conventions:
Perhaps it’s a sign of our times or a result of natural population growth, but longtime convention goers notice a trend: Nearly all conventions (SDCC, NYCC, C2E2, etc.) have experienced yearly attendance growth, sometimes exponentially.
Less than 10 years ago, when Orlando hosted Celebration in 2010 and 2012, you could easily walk in and out of the Celebration store and purchase what you wanted. Not anymore. Anaheim 2015, London 2016, and Orlando 2017 all saw long lines, long waits and many frustrated fans denied the opportunity to purchase even the simple things – logo patches, pins, convention T-shirts – unless they arrived early in the first day or two.
3. A Lot More New Fans and First-Time Attendees:
Disney and Lucasfilm may be victims of their own success. For the general public, Star Wars was “done” after 2005 when Revenge of the Sith flashed on the big screen. George Lucas said as much when he proclaimed ROTS to be the end of the saga.
In this May, 2005, cover, Time Magazine reasonably (but erroneously) declared “Revenge of the Sith” to be the final Star Wars movie.
Then everything changed in August, 2012, when Disney acquired George Lucas’ empire for slightly more than $4 billion. Disney and Lucasfilm announced a slew of new Star Wars films, animated TV series and even two Star Wars-themed lands (called Galaxy’s Edge) at their amusement parks.
The result is a new generation of Star Wars fans, the re-awakening of older fans who might have wandered off, and now intense interest in all things related to Star Wars.
If you follow social media, you will notice a lot of messages from first-time attendees asking “how things work” at Celebration. Thankfully, Chicago’s McCormick Place is North America’s largest convention center. And hopefully, organizer ReedPOP will be ready and able to efficiently manage crowd flow.
4. Social Media:
Older fans might chuckle at this remembrance, but they will recall that “in the old days” (late 1970s to 1990s) information about Star Wars was somewhat hard to come by. Want to learn about George Lucas’s latest movie? Read a trade rag or subscribe to a local fanzine. Looking for a vintage figure? Visit your local comic book store or scour yard sales, garage sales and flea markets.
Information was hard to come by, and the ability to organize anything was prehistoric by Age of the Internet standards. But not anymore.
The flood of instant information and, to a degree, the frenzy for Star Wars has been abetted in large part by social media. The Internet and its social platforms can be both a curse and a blessing at the same time.
Case in point: When ReedPOP announced yesterday that 90% of the 5-day tickets had already been sold, that news flashed across the web and created a predictable frenzy: “Go tell your friends: Hurry, get those last tickets!”
We’re not sure how significant the contribution of scalpers has been to the rapid disappearance of both the Jedi Master VIP tickets and the 5-day passes.
But we do know that scalpers seeking a quick profit have already been posting “for sale” notices for the sought-after tickets.
While it’s true that purchases from ReedPOP are “non-refundable”, there is little to stop buyers from turning around and selling their tickets to others, even at wildly inflated prices.
6. Are the Ticket Prices Too Low?
While not an insignificant amount, the multi-day ticket prices are quite the bargain. For $215 spread out over five days, look how many hours of entertainment you get:
The Celebration website points out that in addition to the hours posted above, some events (such as movie screenings) will continue after-hours until 10:00pm.
That’s 41 hours of entertainment over five days. To express it another way: Fans are paying only $5.25 per hour to live their Star Wars dream ($215 / 41 hours = $5.243).
Many consumers intuitively knew this to be a bargain, and thus the rapid-fire purchase of tickets.
A concert, sporting event or theme park would charge just as much for one evening’s entertainment, and nobody would blink. But to immerse yourself in a long weekend’s worth of “Star Wars heaven” for $215? That’s a galactic deal.
Nobody Really Knows Yet Why the Tickets Sold So Quickly
The above points are just some educated guesses at best.
It’s quite likely that even ReedPOP and their Disney overseers are surprised by the rapid sales. But until we see their sales data (which will never happen), we will never know for sure how fans “lit the spark that will light the fire that will burn the….”
Well, you know the rest.
4-Day Tickets to Star Wars Celebration Orlando Are Sold Out
(posted Dec. 22, 2016)