The new Batman sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, is easily one of the year’s most heavily anticipated movies. There aren’t that many films, after all, that could sell out shows six months before the movie debuts.
The Dark Knight Rises officially hits theaters on July 20. Somehow, though, the rush to buy tickets is already well underway.
Fandango quietly began selling tickets last week to midnight showings of the movie in select cities on the night of July 19, and soon after word of the half-year-in-advance sales hit Variety and other sources, fans began scooping up seats with a superhero-like vengeance.
Entertainment Weekly reports that the 12:01 a.m. IMAX screening in New York City sold out first, and shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles quickly followed suit. Customers paid $17.50 (or more) for the privilege of being among the first of billions to cast eyes upon what’s expected to be Christian Bale’s last run as the caped crusader.
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Those who missed out on ticket sales face the prospect of paying top dollar for seats on the secondary market. Tickets for the midnight showing in New York have been offered for $100 a pop on Craigslist. Seats will inevitably show up on eBay as well.
Then again, you could also just go see the movie the day after, or a day or week or month after that, and pay regular ticket prices, which may be exorbitant but aren’t extortionate.
The brisk pace of ticket sales among fans is all the explanation you need to understand why theaters and studios would bother selling tickets six months in advance. The Hollywood Reporter explains that in December AMC theater managers polled moviegoers at advanced IMAX screenings of the latest “Mission Impossible” film, and apparently plenty of those surveyed said they’d be game to buy tickets months in advance to the forthcoming Batman movie.
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Seizing the opportunity to start reaping in profits ahead of time, and build more hype for the film to boot, the powers that be decided to start selling midnight IMAX tickets for the debut of Dark Knight Rises, which HR notes “features about 40 minutes of footage shot with Imax cameras that is viewed ideally in theaters with 70mm projection technology.”
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.